World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Ring cairn

Article Id: WHEBN0040333711
Reproduction Date:

Title: Ring cairn  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Cheetham Close, Clava cairn, British megalith architecture, Cairn, Chalcolithic
Collection: Bronze Age
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Ring cairn

The scarcely visible ring cairn at Showery Tor
Greenish Ring Cairn

A ring cairn (also correctly termed a ring bank enclosure, but sometimes wrongly described as a ring barrow) is a circular or slightly oval, ring-shaped, low (maximum 0.5 metres high) embankment, several metres wide and from 8 to 20 metres in diameter. It is made of stone and earth and was originally empty in the centre. In several cases the middle of the ring was later used (at Hound Tor, for example there is a stone cist in the centre). The low profile of these cairns, is not always possible to make out without conducting excavations.


  • Distribution 1
  • Description 2
  • Function 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Literature 6
  • External links 7


These sites date to the Bronze Age and occur in Cornwall; Wales and Derbyshire (Barbrook IV and V and Green Low) in England and in Ireland.


Ring cairn near Mains of Moyness

The cairns look like flat variants of the significantly higher Clava cairns, which are often called ring cairns by laymen. The situation is rather different on the gritstones of the Eastern Uplands. Here it is more common to find smaller stone circles and ring cairns. The patterned relationship of these smaller monuments to cairnfield systems throughout the Eastern Moors suggests that they were built and used by specific communities, probably in the centuries around 2000 BC. Although details vary from one site to another, nearly all comprise a ring of small upright stones set on the inner edge of a roughly circular bank.


Ring cairns may have had a function that lay somewhere between that of the much older henges and the contemporary stone circles. The fact that in southeast Wales there are so few stone circles, could be related to the fact that ring cairns were built there instead.

Although graves have been found in some ring cairns this does not appear to be their original purpose. in the central area, graves and pits with cremation ashes, fireplaces and sometimes, small, low cairns are found.

The slightly oval ring cairns near Arthur's Stone on the Gower Peninsula show that the inner edge of ring cairns were especially carefully constructed and were set in front of a small grave. Originally there was a passage through the ring here which is about ten metres across, that was blocked when the cairn ceased to be used.

See also



  • F. Lynch: Ring cairns and related monuments in Wales. In: Scottish Archaeological Forum. 4, 1972 S. 61–80
  • F. Lynch: Ring cairns in Britain and Ireland: their design and purpose. In: Ulster Journal of Archaeology. 42, 1979 S. 1–19

External links

  • „Carnau Cefn-y-Ffordd“, Ring cairns - brief text and photos
  • Aerial photo of Hound Tor round cairn
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.