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Two entrance graves and a platform cairn 90m ESE of Basin Rock, Porth Hellick Down, St Mary's

List Entry Summary

This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

Name: Two entrance graves and a platform cairn 90m ESE of Basin Rock, Porth Hellick Down, St Mary's

List entry Number: 1011949


The monument may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.


District: Isles of Scilly

District Type: Unitary Authority

Parish: St. Mary's

National Park: Not applicable to this List entry.

Grade: Not applicable to this List entry.

Date first scheduled: 07-Oct-1976

Date of most recent amendment: 17-May-1995

Legacy System Information

The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.

Legacy System: RSM

UID: 15366

Asset Groupings

This list entry does not comprise part of an Asset Grouping. Asset Groupings are not part of the official record but are added later for information.

List entry Description

Summary of Monument

Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.

Reasons for Designation

The Isles of Scilly, the westernmost of the granite masses of south west England, contain a remarkable abundance and variety of archaeological remains from over 4000 years of human activity. The remote physical setting of the islands, over 40km beyond the mainland in the approaches to the English Channel, has lent a distinctive character to those remains, producing many unusual features important for our broader understanding of the social development of early communities. Throughout the human occupation there has been a gradual submergence of the islands' land area, providing a stimulus to change in the environment and its exploitation. This process has produced evidence for responses to such change against an independent time-scale, promoting integrated studies of archaeological, environmental and linguistic aspects of the islands' settlement. The islands' archaeological remains demonstrate clearly the gradually expanding size and range of contacts of their communities. By the post- medieval period (from AD 1540), the islands occupied a nationally strategic location, resulting in an important concentration of defensive works reflecting the development of fortification methods and technology from the mid 16th to the 20th centuries. An important and unusual range of post- medieval monuments also reflects the islands' position as a formidable hazard for the nation's shipping in the western approaches. The exceptional preservation of the archaeological remains on the islands has long been recognised, producing an unusually full and detailed body of documentation, including several recent surveys.

Entrance graves are funerary and ritual monuments whose construction and use dates to the later Neolithic, Early and Middle Bronze Age (c.2500 - 1000 BC). They were constructed with a roughly circular mound of heaped rubble and earth, up to 25m in diameter, whose perimeter may be defined by a kerb of edge-set slabs or, occasionally, coursed stone. The mound contains a rectangular chamber built of edge-set slabs, coursed walling or both, and covered by large slabs, called capstones, set transversely across the chamber. The chamber was accessible via a gap in the mound's kerb or outer edge and often extends back beyond the centre of the mound. The cairn's mound and chamber may incorporate natural boulders and outcrops. Excavations in entrance graves have revealed cremated human bone and funerary urns, usually within the chambers but on occasion within the mound. Unburnt human bone has also been recovered but is only rarely preserved. Some chambers have also produced ritual deposits of domestic midden debris, including dark earth typical of the surface soil found within settlements, animal bone and artefact fragments. Entrance graves may occur as single monuments or in small or large groups, often being associated with other cairn types in cemeteries. They may also occur in close proximity to broadly contemporary field boundaries. The national distribution of entrance graves is heavily weighted towards the Isles of Scilly which contain 79 of the 93 surviving examples recorded nationally, the remaining 14 being located in western Cornwall. Platform cairns are also funerary monuments, of Early Bronze Age date (c.2000 - 1600 BC). They were constructed as low flat-topped mounds of stone rubble, up to 40m in external diameter though usually considerably smaller, covering single or multiple burials. Some examples have other features, including peripheral banks and internal mounds constructed on the platform. A kerb of slabs or edge-set stones sometimes bounds the edge of the platform, and a peripheral bank or mound if present. As with entrance graves, platform cairns can occur as isolated monuments, in small groups or in cairn cemeteries. In cemeteries they are normally found alongside cairns of other types. Platform cairns form a significant proportion of the 387 surviving cairns on the Isles of Scilly; this is unusual in comparison with the mainland. The considerable variation in form, the longevity and the associations both of platform cairns and the nationally rare entrance graves provide important information on the diversity of beliefs, burial practices and social organisation in the Bronze Age. The two entrance graves and the platform cairn forming this grouping on Porth Hellick Down have survived well, despite the attentions of early antiquaries on the western entrance grave. The incorporation of natural outcrops into the funerary mound is a feature found elsewhere on the Isles of Scilly but which is unusual and rare nationally. The varied funerary structures contained in this monument and their proximity to the other broadly contemporary and diverse cairns on Porth Hellick Down demonstrates the diversity of funerary practices during the Bronze Age. The proximity of these cairns to a prehistoric field system on the western slope of the Down and the disposition of this and the other cairn cemeteries on successive downs along the coast illustrates well the organisation of land use among prehistoric communities.


Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.


The monument includes a close grouping of two prehistoric entrance graves and a platform cairn situated near the centre of Porth Hellick Down, on south eastern St Mary's in the Isles of Scilly. The entrance graves and cairn form a triangular arrangement, the entrance graves being situated 20m apart on an east-west axis, with the platform cairn 17m NNE of the western entrance grave. The eastern entrance grave survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble, 15m in diameter and 1m high, built around a large natural granite outcrop, 7m long, north-south, by 3.5m wide and 1.8m high. The mound rises gently to a kerb of edge-set slabs, up to 0.6m high, defining a sub-circular central platform, 9m in diameter. The kerb is noticeably flattened in its north west sector. The central platform is dominated by the outcrop, slightly east of its centre, and contains a funerary chamber with a NNW-SSE long axis, utilising the western face of the outcrop for its eastern side. The chamber is visible as a turf-covered hollow, 4m long, 1.4m wide and 0.5m deep, defined along its western side by two edge-set slabs, the largest measuring 1.8m long and 0.5m high. Two large slabs, called capstones, up to 1.8m long, 0.8m wide and 0.45m thick, span the chamber's interior, sloping down from the western side-slabs to the side of the outcrop. The western entrance grave survives with a circular mound of heaped rubble, 9m in diameter and 1m high. The mound rises to traces of a kerb of edge-set slabs, up to 0.9m long and 0.5m high; four slabs are visible, a pair adjoining in each of the western and north eastern sectors of a kerb projecting to a total of 5m in diameter. Within the shallow-domed central area defined by the kerb, an unrecorded antiquarian excavation along the line of the chamber has produced a hollow extending south from the kerbed area's northern edge. The hollow measures 2.25m long, north-south, by 1.6m wide and 0.3m deep. Most of the chamber's stone lining has been removed by the excavation but three granite slabs visible in the turf to the north and south of the hollow are considered to have been displaced from the chamber's structure. The platform cairn survives with a circular heather-covered mound of heaped rubble, 5m in diameter, rising 0.3m to a flattened platform, 3m in diameter. This monument forms part of a cairn cemetery containing at least six other cairns dispersed across the central plateau of Porth Hellick Down. The cairns in this cemetery vary in form but at least six are entrance graves, forming one of the largest surviving groupings of this type of monument. A broadly contemporary field system extends along the north west slope of the Down. Other prehistoric cairn cemeteries, including entrance graves, are located on the adjacent coastal downs of Salakee Down to the south west and Normandy Down to the NNE.

MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Selected Sources

Books and journals
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, Ancient Scilly, (1974)
Ashbee, P, The chambered Tombs on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, (1963), 9-18
Ashbee, P, The chambered Tombs on St Mary's, Isles of Scilly, (1963), 9-18
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7527, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7528, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7528.02, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7528.03, (1988)
consulted 1994, Waters, A., AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7528.11, (1988)
Rees, S., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1026, 1975, consulted 1994
Rees, S., AM7 scheduling documentation for CO 1026, 1975, part 'a'. Consulted 1994
Title: 1:2500 Ordnance Survey Map; SV 9210 Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:

National Grid Reference: SV 92868 10738


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This copy shows the entry on 20-Sep-2018 at 10:56:23.

End of official listing