Five cairns, two stone alignments and three cists, forming part of a ritual complex on Lakehead Hill


Heritage Category:
Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number:
Date first listed:
Date of most recent amendment:


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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.

West Devon (District Authority)
Dartmoor Forest
National Park:
National Grid Reference:
SX 64257 77694, SX 64346 77783, SX 64351 77474, SX 64377 77656, SX 64542 77622

Reasons for Designation

Dartmoor is the largest expanse of open moorland in southern Britain and, because of exceptional conditions of preservation, it is also one of the most complete examples of an upland relict landscape in the whole country. The great wealth and diversity of archaeological remains provide direct evidence for human exploitation of the Moor from the early prehistoric period onwards. The well-preserved and often visible relationship between settlement sites, major land boundaries, trackways, ceremonial and funerary monuments as well as later industrial remains, gives significant insights into successive changes in the pattern of land use through time. A ring cairn is a prehistoric ritual monument comprising a circular bank of stones up to 20m in diameter surrounding a hollow central area. The bank may be kerbed on the inside, and sometimes on the outside as well, with small uprights or laid boulders. Ring cairns are found mainly in upland areas of England and are mostly discovered and authenticated by ground level fieldwork and survey, although a few are large enough to be visible on aerial photographs. They often occur in pairs or small groups of up to four examples. Occasionally they lie within round barrow cemeteries. Ring cairns are interpreted as ritual monuments of Early and Middle Bronze Age date. The exact nature of the rituals concerned is not fully understood, but excavation has revealed pits, some containing burials and others containing charcoal and pottery, taken to indicate feasting activities associated with the burial rituals. Many areas of upland have not yet been surveyed in detail and the number of ring cairns in England is not accurately known. However, available evidence indicates a population of between 250 and 500 examples. As a relatively rare class of monument exhibiting considerable variation in form, all positively identified examples retaining significant archaeological deposits are considered worthy of preservation.

The ritual complex on Lakehead Hill together with other funerary sites in the vicinity, contains considerable evidence for ritual activity in this part of Bronze Age Dartmoor.


The monument, which falls into five areas of protection, includes five cairns, two stone alignments and three cists lying on a gentle slope near the summit of Lakehead Hill. The northern ring cairn survives as a 6m diameter circle of upright slabs standing up to 0.4m high surrounding a slightly raised area. In the centre of the circle is a small 0.15m high mound. To the south east a second cairn includes an 8m diameter and 0.1m high mound containing a north west to south east orientated cist measuring 0.9m long by 0.55m wide. The cist is now backfilled and protrudes 0.4m high above the present land surface. Part excavation of the cist in 1898 by the Dartmoor Exploration Committee, revealed flint knives and scrapers together with pottery fragments and charcoal. The northern of the two stone alignments includes a 22m long, single row of at least 12 stones standing up to 0.75m high, aligned east to west. The second stone alignment within the monument lies further to the east and survives as a single row of at least 11 stones leading westward towards a cairn and cist. The cairn measures 6.7m in diameter and is defined by several edge set stones, which in turn surround a large restored cist formed by five substantial upright slabs supporting a capstone measuring 2.2m long by 1.55m wide and 0.3m thick. The southern ring cairns both include circles of edge set stones. The northern cairn measures 7.8m in diameter and the surrounding stones stand up to 0.9m high. The second cairn lies a short distance to the south; this measure 6.9m in diameter and contains a central cist. The cist protrudes 0.4m above the surrounding ground surface and is covered by a capstone measuring 1.7m long, 1.28m wide and 0.15m thick.

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.

Legacy System number:
Legacy System:


Books and journals
Butler, J, Dartmoor Atlas of Antiquities, (1991), 50


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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