Round cairn including prehistoric carved stone 620m north west of Glassonby


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
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Date first listed:
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Ordnance survey map of Round cairn including prehistoric carved stone 620m north west of Glassonby
© Crown Copyright and database right 2019. All rights reserved. Ordnance Survey Licence number 100024900.
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

Eden (District Authority)
National Grid Reference:
NY 57275 39349

Reasons for Designation

Round cairns are prehistoric funerary monuments dating to the Bronze Age (c.2000-700 BC). They were constructed as stone mounds covering single or multiple burials. These burials may be placed within the mound in stone-lined compartments called cists. In some cases the cairn was surrounded by a ditch. Often occupying prominent locations, cairns are a major visual element in the modern landscape. They are a relatively common feature of the uplands and are the stone equivalent of the earthen round barrows of the lowlands. Their considerable variation in form and longevity as a monument type provide important information on the diversity of beliefs and social organisation amongst early prehistoric communities. They are particularly representative of their period and a substantial proportion of surviving examples are considered worthy of protection.

Prehistoric rock art is especially common in the north of England. The most common form of decoration is the `cup and ring' marking where expanses of small cup-like hollows are pecked into the surface of the rock. These cups may be surrounded by one or more `rings' and other shapes and patterns also occur. These carvings date to the Late Neolithic and Bronze Age periods (2800-c.500 BC) and provide one of our most important insights into prehistoric 'art'. The exact meaning of the designs remains unknown, but they may be interpreted as sacred or religious symbols. Frequently they are found close to contemporary burial monuments and the symbols are also found on portable stones placed directly next to burials or incorporated in burial mounds. All positively identified prehistoric rock art sites exhibiting a significant group of designs will normally be identified as nationally important. Despite a combination of limited excavation and plough damage to the edges of the monument, the round cairn 620m north west of Glassonby survives reasonably well. This excavation located human remains, a glass bead and pottery, and further evidence of grave goods will exist within the mound and upon the old landsurface beneath. Additionally the monument is a rare example in Cumbria of a site displaying in-situ prehistoric rock art.


The monument includes a partly mutilated round cairn and a prehistoric carved stone located on gently sloping land 620m north west of Glassonby. The cairn is a largely grass covered irregularly-shaped mound of cobbles up to 0.5m high and measuring c.30.5m - 33.5m in diameter. On the summit of the mound there is a circle of 30 larger stones up to 0.92m high which are arranged in an oval measuring 15.7m by 14m. One of the stones forming the circle displays prehistoric rock art carving depicting a complex design of concentric circles, semi-ovoids, chevrons and other linear features which link it with traditions outside Cumbria. In 1875 a sandstone block decorated with spiral or concentric circles was found amongst the stones forming the circle but subsequently lost. Limited excavation of the cairn by Collingwood in 1900 revealed that the large stones of the circle were originally covered by the mound and were only revealed on removal of the cobbles from which the mound was constructed. Within the circle were several features including a previously robbed cist or rectangular pit dug into the old landsurface and lined with red sandstone slabs and a small area of charcoal. A bead made of light blue transparent glass decorated with a wavy line of opaque white was found within the circle. Just outside the circle of stones, on the south east side, the excavation located an intact inverted collared urn decorated with six lines of incised marks and containing the cremated bones of a male. A second cremation, also found just outside the circle of stones, consisted of a small hole dug into the old landsurface and filled with the burnt bones of a youth or female.

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.


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

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Books and journals
Beckensall, S, Cumbrian Prehistoric Rock Art: Symbols, Monument & Landscapes, (1992), 16-19
Beckensall, S, Cumbrian Prehistoric Rock Art: Symbols, Monument & Landscapes, (1992), 16-19
Waterhouse, J, The Stones Circles of Cumbria, (1986), 105-6
Barnes, H, Turner, W, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in On The Bones From Grayson-lands Tumulus, Glassonby, , Vol. 1, (1901), 300-302
Collingwood, W G, 'Trans Cumb and West Antiq and Arch Soc. New Ser.' in Tumulus at Grayson-Lands, Glassonby, Cumberland, , Vol. 1, (1901), 295-99


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.

End of official listing

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