Archaeoastronomy workshops and walks

Please contact me through this website to save a spot on any of these events.

Part of the Tin Coast Events Programme. Commissioned by the Tin Coast Partnership and Cornwall 365.

Archaeoastronomy Workshop and Field Practice Day

If you have ever wanted to learn some of the techniques used in archaeoastronomy, here is your chance. This workshop day will be in two parts and start with an introductory morning talk, followed by discussion of techniques and software which can be used to look at how the ancient skies around Cornwall would have differed to today. The afternoon will be out in the field and allow people to put into practice some of the techniques that they have learnt in the morning. Carolyn will lead both sessions.

First workshop (23rd March 2021)

23rd March, The Knut St Just. 10-1pm (morning session)

Introductory talk and workshop – techniques which can be used in the field

23rd March, Tregeseal. 2-3.30pm – putting ideas into practice. An outdoor workshop (afternoon session)

Putting ideas and skills to use In the field landscape around Tregeseal

Second workshop (20th April 2021)

20th April, The Knut St Just. 10-1pm (morning session)

Introductory talk and workshop – techniques which can be used in the field

20th April, Tregeseal. 2-3.30pm – putting ideas into practice. An outdoor workshop (afternoon session)

Putting ideas and skills to use In the field landscape around Tregeseal

Walking Tours

The Ritual Landscape around Tregeseal and its Connections to the Sky (26th March)

This walking tour will take people on a 2.5 mile tour of the ritual landscape around Tregeseal. It will visit a stone circle, barrows, and a stone row. Carolyn will lead the walking tour and talk about each of the sites visited and if they relate to the night sky, how they do this.

There will be lots of opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the ancient landscape within the Tin Coast area.

The walk itself is easy-moderate, the ground is uneven in places and can be muddy at times.

Friday 26th March 2021 10am – Guided walk through the landscape around Tregeseal

Booking essential as number limited

The Ritual Landscape around Boskednan and its connections to the Sky. (23rd April)

This walking tour will take people on a 3 mile tour of the ritual landscape around Boskednan. It will visit a stone circle, barrows, menhir, and a holed stone. Carolyn will lead the walking tour and talk about each of the sites visited and if they relate to the night sky, how they do this.

There will be lots of opportunity to ask questions and learn more about the ancient landscape within the Tin Coast area.

The walk itself is easy-moderate, the ground is uneven in places and can be muddy at times.

Friday 23rd April 10am – Guided walk through the landscape around Tregeseal

Booking essential as number limited

Please contact me through this website to save a spot on any of these events

The Framing of Sperris Quoit

Sperris Quoit is located in West Cornwall and is an example of one of the earliest stone monuments found here in the UK dating from the Neolithic. A type of megalithic burial chamber, this Quoit is not as impressive as its neighbour Zennor, with only one upright it is completely missing its capstone. Although excavations found a cremation pit which gives evidence for its purpose.

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Sperris Quoit

Just above the quoit are a number of interesting moor stones, some of these are capstone shaped and you can see where the inspiration for the design of some of the West Cornwall quoits came from. One collection of rocks on slightly higher ground to the quoit has a square gap through which you can look.

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Framing stone

In one direction the quoit is framed and in the other direction a local headland.

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Framing of Sperris Quoit

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Framing of headland

If you clamber on top you will see one of the stone has some deep etchings into the surface, whether these are natural or manmade is hard to tell, but the position of the stone and orientation of the etchings are of interest. Forming a T shape, the top of the T runs from 230 degrees in the direction of the headland to 50 degrees in the direction of the quoit.

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Etchings

Underneath the frame seems to follow the same orientation. This would mean that the winter solstice sunset would fall over the headland and shine through the framed gap onto the quoit. Giving an illumination of the stone at this most ceremonial time of the calendar.
This has not been tested and would need to be tried out observationally before confirmation of this alignment could be verified.

The framed headland itself as a position for winter solstice is a great choice as it is a liminal location. The level of the sea horizon changes with the Moon phase, meaning that you may get the sunset onto a high sea horizon above the headland, or just onto the headland itself. If it set into the sea, you would have the added opportunity of seeing a green flash while looking through the framing stone.

Watching the Sun

Watching the Sun much in the way that many people have in the past…..

At equinox the daily displacement of the Sun is at its greatest. moving past this towards the solstice sees a slow decrease in its rising and setting positions along the horizon. One question is how noticeable a change does this make from day to day, particularly with a long and distant sightline?

The following images have been taken from the summit of the Iron Age hill fort Castle Pencaire looking towards west Cornwall and Penwith.

There will be an image for many of the sunsets during isolation, I will try and update regularly,  with the intention of demonstrating how visible the daily displacement is to someone making observations and watching the Sun. This is inspired by mayescreative.com  #seventeensuns #watchingthesun HLF project which is revisiting the seventeen years that Schwebe made solar observations, which lead to his discovery of the solar cycle.

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March 29th sunset at 19.50 BST, 277 degrees. One week past spring equinox the Sun now displaces to the north
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March 31st sunset at 19.53 BST, 278 degrees. Sun has moved one degree to the north
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April 1st sunset at 19.54 BST, 279 degrees. Sun has moved one degree to the north
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April 2nd sunset at 19.56 BST, 279 degrees. Sun has moved less than one degree to the north
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April 3rd sunset at 19.57 BST, 280 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 4th sunset at 19.59 BST, 281 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 6th sunset at 20.02 BST, 282 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 7th sunset at 20.0 BST, 282 degrees. Sun has moved less than one-degree to the north
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April 8th sunset at 20.05 BST, 283 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 9th sunset at 20.07 BST, 284 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 10th sunset at 20.08 BST, 284 degrees. Sun has moved less than one-degree to the north
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April 11th sunset at 20.10 BST, 285 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 13th sunset at 20.13 BST, 286 degrees. Sun has moved more than one-degree to the north
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April 14th sunset at 20.15 BST, 286 degrees. Sun has moved less than one-degree to the north
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April 15th sunset at 20.17 BST, 287 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 16th sunset at 20.18 BST, 288 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north
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April 21st sunset at 20.26 BST, 290 degrees. Sun has moved two-degrees to the north in four days.
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April 22nd sunset at 20.27 BST, 291 degrees. Sun has moved one-degree to the north.
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April 23rd sunset at 20.27 BST, 290 degrees. Sun has moved less than one-degree to the north.
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April 28th sunset at 20.37 BST, 295 degrees. Sun has moved 5 degrees to the north in 5 days.
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May 8th sunset at 20.52 BST, 299 degrees. Sun has moved 4 degrees to the north in 10 days.
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May 11th sunset at 20.56 BST, 300 degrees. Sun has moved 1 degree to the north in 3 days.
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May 12th sunset at 20.58 BST, 301 degrees. Sun has moved 1 degree to the north.
May 30th sunset at 21.21 BST, 307 degrees. Sun has moved 6 degree to the north in 18 days
May 31st sunset at 21.22 BST, 307 degrees. Sun has moved 0 degree to the north
June 1st sunset at 21.23 BST, 307 degrees. Sun has moved 0 degree to the north

Little Galver and the Midpoint Sun

I first visited Little Galver’s viewing station on an excellent Pathways to the Past (CASPN) walk lead by David Giddings. I was amazed by this wonderful hidden spot on the West Penwith moors. A triangular collection of stones frames the impressive Carn Galver. While there I took a quick compass reading which said approx. 270 degrees and since then I had wondered how the framed Carn Galver would interplay with the equinox setting sun. I finally had an opportunity to go check this out on Saturday night (Equinox+1) and took some images during the event. The sun did not just set quickly but surprisingly it rolled down the spine of the hillside, creating a spectacle which lasted nearly ten minutes. Towards the end, it dipped in and out of the nooks and crannies which made up the uneven spine. What a solar extravaganza, such a sight to behold and who knows who had seen it last, maybe no one since prehistory.

Dark skies and astro tourism

A lovely writeup from Sophie Lam in the Inews about finding dark sky spaces. Obviously, I’m biased but Cornwall has some wonderful stargazing spaces. Including Bodmin Moor which is a IDA Dark Sky Park and West Cornwall which is currently applying to be a Dark Sky Reserve.

Here is a link to the article which includes a quote from me about the wonders of the Cornish night sky.

How to book a stargazing trip in the UK and further afield _ inews

 

Measuring the Universe with The Tate St Ives at Porthmeor Beach.

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We have been having lots of fun down at the beach in St Ives. As part of Mayes Creative Measuring the Universe Heritage Lottery funded project we have been celebrating the 250 year anniversary of the Transit of Venus. During the Tate St Ives Winter Festival we braved the elements to head on to the beach to walk the relative distances between the planets. At each location, we played sounds of the planets and placed a flag to represent a planet. As part of the day, we were interviewed on the project by Jack Murley on Radio Cornwall.

Here is a link to the radio interview with BBC Radio Cornwalls Jack Murley

Thanks to Justin for the sounds and this video pf one of the flags blowing down the beach.

Here is a link to the work that artists Joanna Mayes and Justin Wiggan have been making during the project http://www.mayescreative.com/mtu.html

The Hurlers Inter-circle link under the Moonlight

The Hurlers is a wonderful triple stone circle site located within a larger ritual landscape on Bodmin Moor. There has been a number of excavations undertaken at the site including the exposing of the inter circle pathway, which is a unique and interesting feature.

During 2013 Mapping the Sun project, when the pathway was exposed and excavated, there was an observation that it could have been made to look like Milky Way on the ground. Although the pathway is now been turfed over we had the idea of recreating this effect. The moor itself has a yellow clay and anyone walking around in the troughs and valleys may find their boots stained in the wonderful yellow colour, although there was no remaining evidence of this we thought what would happen if the stones in this pathway had been packed with the yellow clay around them. How would that look under a full Moon? How would it look in the dying sunlight of an evening?

 

An experiment was born.

We headed out onto the moor with a long sheet of yellow cloth and laid it upon the location of the inter-circle link, we waited and watched the sunset and then we also watched what happened in the moonrise, I am sure you will love the results we found in the video below.

 

Apollo 50 and Cornwall

We had a wonderful day at Goonhilly Earth Station celebrating the lunar landings on Saturday. The celebrations kicked off early and went on all day and night, reaching the 3.56BST time which Neil Armstrong placed the first human footprint onto the moon.

I was there with Mayes Creative and their wonderful meteor sculpture and its cosmic ray detector. More can be seen about what we got up to where we were interviewed by Cornwall live.

I also made it onto ITV West country news on their Saturday night broadcast talking about cosmic rays – this can be viewed here

I also wrote a lovely article for Astronomy Now (July issue), all about the role Goonhilly played in the broadcasting of the Apollo 11 lunar landing images.  If you haven’t seen this months issue it’s well worth checking out as its full of wonderful lunar memories and features.

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A big thank you to all the people who made this event possible – it was wonderful to play a small part on the day in which Goonhilly showcased the best of Space Cornwall on this amazing anniversary.

Propped stone / pseudo quoit at Carn Kenidjack

Possible propped stone on Carn Kenidjack.

Walking towards Carn Kenidjack you cannot be astounded by the magnificent rock formation that forms the main outcrop on the hilltop. This natural formation is clearly visible for miles around and must have acted as a visual marker in the West Cornwall upland area.

Interestingly I have often wondered about one part of this formation which does not look like it is part of the natural feature but seems to be a later human addition. Approaching from the NE side or nearest North Road to the right hand side of the outcrop is a large rock propped onto 2 stones. One of these stones is much smaller than the other, but between the two they raise the large piece of granite away from the main structure. The large rock balanced on these stones has a capstone shape especially when viewed from further afield. About half a mile distant on a visible ridge is Chun Quoit and it amazes me the similarity in shape of the two objects when viewing the objects from each other. I wonder if the stone high on Carn Kenidjack is a propped stone or pseudo quoit much in the manner of the propped quoit of Leskernick.

A further consideration is that when you stand at Chun Quoit on the winter solstice you will see the Sun sets behind Carn Kenidjack and during prehistory it would have highlighted the pseudo quoit even more. If people did move a rock to the top of this formation it would have been a massive undertaking and shows the reverence they held for the Chun quoit on the local hillside and its connection at the winter solstice and the outcrop of Carn Kenidjack

Image taken at winter solstice sunset