Maps of Prehistoric West Cornwall
These are maps of the ancient sites and alignments in West Cornwall - embracing the differing landscapes of West Penwith, the Isles of Scilly, East Penwith, Kerrier and The Lizard.
These maps are based upon one overarching map of the whole of West Cornwall, west of Truro and Newquay. These are broken down into area maps. They can all be found on the See the Maps page.
There are two maps for each area: one shows ancient sites only, and the other shows alignments between ancient sites. For more information about alignments, see here.
What do the ancient sites maps show?
The ancient sites maps show all the known ancient sites in West Cornwall.
These have been found by trawling meticulously through the official Pastscape, Historic England, Heritage Gateway and Cornwall Council resource websites, the unofficial Megalithic Portal and Modern Antiquarian sites, Meyn Mamvro, CASPN and the Cornish Ancient and Holy Wells map, as well as through personal communications, books and other sources.
All locations on the maps are exactly positioned. Nearly all marked sites have reference links leading to websites such as those listed above, giving more information about each individual site - just click on the symbol for the site and the information will appear onscreen.
The main emphasis of the map is to show ancient sites from the megalithic period (neolithic and bronze ages) and the iron age, with some additional early-medieval sites (some of which were built on top of more ancient sites).
So, unlike the highly detailed Cornwall Council map, these maps avoid marking archaeological findspots, and they are selective in showing all iron age rounds and uncertain sites and various other features, to avoid cluttering the maps and optimise its usefulness.
Some judgement has had to be applied in order to reconcile differences in the information given on the various resource websites mentioned above, and to correct incorrect map references and other details.
What does the alignments map show?
The alignments maps show the known ancient sites of West Cornwall, together with the alignments that have thus far been found running between these sites.
These alignments demonstrate that ancient sites were very deliberately located, constituting an integrated system. This integration is particularly true in West Penwith and the Isles of Scilly.
Map alignments were first identified by Alfred Watkins in the 1920s-30s and the idea was further developed by John Michell in the 1960s-70s. They are not energy-lines or energy-leys: they are simply sites that are aligned with each other (read more about this here).
All alignments shown on this map are accurate to within three metres, with a few exceptions at five metres. Alignments have a minimum of four sites on them - mostly more - though there are three-site exceptions (discussed on another page).
Initially, many alignments were drawn from a list compiled by Ray Cox of Meyn Mamvro, using research done over several decades by John Michell and a variety of contributors to the journal Meyn Mamvro. Once this was done, many new alignments, not least the backbone alignments, were discovered during the making of the map and added to the list.
All alignments have all been carefully checked by the mapmaker, Palden Jenkins, and by Cheryl Straffon and Ray Cox (click to see who we are). The map is periodically updated as new information and ideas come in.
How the map was made
Google Maps was chosen over other alternatives because of its accuracy, editability, public availability and zero costs. It does have certain mapping limitations, but then, so too do other online services unless substantial fees are paid. Since this research work is financially unsupported, the free option had to be taken.
Ray Cox's list of alignments was then entered on the map and individually checked. In the process, 20% of alignments in the list were scrapped, since they were found to be insufficiently accurate. New alignments emerged during the making of the map and, once checked by Ray and Cheryl, they were entered on the map. These more than doubled Penwith's known alignments. These alignments are regularly reviewed.
A few more details
Quite a few sites marked on the map are no longer present in the field - they have been destroyed or moved by farmers, landowners and miners. Their locations have been identified by studying historical records, field evidence and other sources, and through archaeological and dowsing work by a variety of researchers.
Many now-destroyed sites were mentioned by an antiquarian of the late 1800s called William Borlase, a resident of Pendeen in West Penwith, and by other early antiquarians. Biographies of many of these antiquarians can be found here.
Some ancient sites have been removed as recently as the 1970s-80s. Notable amongst these were the last remaining stones from the Tregurnow stone circle, close to the Merry Maidens. Even today, battles (led particularly by Ian McNeil Cooke's Save Penwith Moors campaign) continue over mobile phone masts, cattle damage and questionable land-management measures.
Establishing alignments through distinct points such as menhirs, stones, crosses and quoits is quite straightforward but it is meticulous work and not as easy and simple as one would imagine. In the case of stone circles, enclosures, rounds and some barrows and cairns, alignments sometimes tangent their perimeter rather than cutting through the centre of the site.
One early discovery was that of a direct alignment of three hills - St Michael's Mount, Trencrom Hill and St Ives Head - which, perceptually, form West Penwith's eastern boundary. Many other discoveries evolved from there. These are outlined in the More on the Map and Findings sections of this site.
Some are backbone alignments - longer-distance alignments linking higher-magnitude sites, giving the overall alignment system an overall structure. Most other alignments are more local - on the map these have been grouped into major and lesser alignments. In the Isles of Scilly there are quite a number of parallel alignments, highlighted on the Scilly map in a special colour.
These differing alignments are marked in different colours (see alignment magnitudes). This classification is neither final nor conclusive - it's a working basis for distinguishing different kinds of alignments and making sense of a profusion of alignments.
The finding of new alignments was partly a logical process and partly intuitive. It's logical to look for alignments radiating from certain key sites such as St Michael's Mount, Boscawen-ûn or Lanyon Quoit. Intuitively, alignments also revealed themselves spontaneously, often 'by chance' while working on the map.
There isn't a neatly rational system or pattern to these alignments, to our modern way of thinking, such as grids or geometrical shapes, yet there is still a coherence to it all, with hints of both an organically-arising and a thought-through, planned order.
Here are the maps
Isles of Scilly:
Kerrier and Lizard:
To view any of these maps on your computer using Google Earth, go to the map that interests you, click the three dots at the top-right of the map legend, then click 'download KML', save the KMZ or KML file to your computer and open it in Google Earth.
Map courtesy of Google Maps
Chûn Quoit from Boswens menhir
Boscawen-ûn stone circle
Early Christian cross near Sancreed
The fogou at Carn Euny
The Merry Maidens stone circle
Chûn Quoit and Boscaswell church
Carn Lês Boel
The Mount from Carfury menhir
Quartz stone at Boscawen-ûn
St Euny's holy well, Carn Euny
Carn Euny Iron Age village
Men Scryfa inscribed menhir
Carn Kenidjak from Botrea Barrows
West Lanyon Quoit
This project is dedicated to
and Tom Graves
for their friendship and
their contributions to
geomancy and archaeology.
Carn Galva from Lanyon Quoit
How it all came about
The idea came in 2013 to Palden Jenkins, who has been interested in archaeology and geomancy since 1971, starting with field research in North Wales and then in Uppland, Sweden, through the 1970s. Later, when resident in Glastonbury between 1980 and 2008, he researched and published the Map of the Ancient Landscape around Glastonbury. This having been a complex and meticulous project, in 2013 he prevaricated before starting work on a map of Penwith.
The process started when he asked Cheryl Straffon, a mainstay of the Penwith archaeological scene, whether a map of the area's ancient sites was available. It wasn't. So Palden volunteered to make one. Little was he to know at that time that many new discoveries were to unfold as he compiled the map.
The initial Penwith map was started in December 2014 and work went on through the subsequent stormy winter until the first version was completed by June 2015. A complete revision and update has been carried out in 2019, adding far more detail, systematising information given and checking every single ancient site and alignment. This process is ongoing, proceding in waves of activity.
While doing this it became evident that more research needed to be done in future. The work will continue and develop further in coming years, and progress in this work will be reported on this site.
Gratitude to the following people and organisations for the part they have played in the making of thes maps:
- Alfred Watkins and John Michell for sparking the geomancy movement in UK, and especially to John for his work in Penwith around 1970-73 - see his book The Old Stones of the Land's End Peninsula;
- Cheryl Straffon, Raymond Cox and contributors to Meyn Mamvro for all their work, and to Cheryl and Ray for checking the maps, information and considered opinions;
- the many researchers who have contributed data, insights and ideas to the study of West Penwith's ancient past;
- Heritage Gateway, Pastscape, the Megalithic Portal and The Modern Antiquarian, all of which have been important sources of precise locational data and information;
- Google Maps, DigitalGlobe, Getmapping plc, Infoterra Ltd, Bluesky, Landsat and Terrametrics for the digital mapping and satellite photography that forms the base of the maps.
Two routes follow from here.
For more about the map and alignments:
or to examine the maps more closely: