NGR: SX 1828 7999
Leskernick is an extraordinarily well preserved
settlement comprising at least forty four
round houses set within a
very extensive field system covering approximately 21 hectares. The
site is located on the extremely stony south-west facing slopes of Leskernick Hill. The surface stones are known as “clitter”, a
feature common to the granite outcrops of the South West and
associated with geological processes taking place on the fringes of
glaciated areas during transitional phases of the Ice Age. As the
surrounding areas are relatively stone-free, the siting of the
settlement in this area is assumed to be deliberate.
There appears to be at least two phases to the site. To the
north-west lie two clusters of round houses, sited on the stoniest
ground within large walled enclosures. A single wall joins these
parts of the settlement to the area to the south-east which is
thought to be a later addition. Here the round houses are generally
larger and more complex, and several have annexes or porches. The
walls vary in construction from turf covered stone banks to
substantial double faced stone walls with some tall upright slabs.
The entrance ways align mainly to the south-west, south-east and
north-west. There are also some single isolated houses in this area.
The houses are set within a complex system of small fields, some of
which appear to be linked in such a way as to ‘belong to’ certain
groups of houses. Some of the smaller structures and houses appear
to be built into boundary walls.
Many small stony mounds, or cairns, are sited within the fields.
They are a common occurrence within field systems on the moor but
their purpose is uncertain - they may be clearance cairns, created
when the fields were first established by clearing stones from the
surface, or alternatively they could have been for burial and at
least one stone cist has been discovered built into a field wall.
The settlement is associated with an impressive ceremonial or ritual
landscape. In addition to the small ‘field’ cairns, mentioned above,
two larger kerbed cairns can be found on the summit of the hill to
the north, and there are two kerbed platform cairns on the hilltop
opposite, known as Beacon Hill. Smaller cairns with cists can also
be found to the north-east, lying on a spur of land between two
streams. In the open moorland to the south-east of the settlement
are two stone circles with a large cairn between the two, making an
approximately straight alignment; flanking the cairn is a stone row
which leads off to the east. The northern of these circles was only
recently discovered as many of its stones are fallen; it is thought
to have originally contained between 27 and 29
stones, all rather small and uneven in shape. Within the circle but
slightly off-centre lies a large whale-back stone, possibly a
natural feature but more likely a standing stone that has either
fallen or been deliberately laid flat when the circle went out of
use. The tallest stones of the circle appear to face uphill towards
the settlement which, in this direction, seems to be set at a
respectful distance, to better separate the secular from the ritual
space. This suggests that the easterly part of the settlement at
least is either contemporary with or post-dates the stone circles.
In either event the ritual monuments seem to have continued to
provide an important symbolic focus.
The stone row consists of at least twenty seven stones, some only
partially exposed and with breaks in the spacing caused by stone
robbing and tin stream-working during mediæval or later times.
Because of this it is unclear how far the stone row originally
extended to the east, but a group of three squared stones standing
at the western end near to the cairn appear to provide a starting or
terminating feature. It does not appear to align on any particular
horizon feature or astronomical event. Dating stone rows is
problematical; although most are thought to have been set up in the
Early or Middle Bronze Age, which would make this one broadly
contemporary with the settlement, it could equally have originated
in the Neolithic period and may therefore be much older. Recently a
long mound was discovered on the north-western slopes of Beacon Hill
which not only continues the alignment formed by the two stone
circles and the cairn, but also appears to sight directly on a
previously unnoticed stone setting on the hilltop above the
settlement, marking the position of sunset at the summer solstice.
This provides another tantalising glimpse into the rich and complex
inner lives of Leskernick’s inhabitants.
Leskernick Hill lies within an area of open moorland which is common
land and has footpath access.
Barnatt, J,1982. Prehistoric
Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments. Turnstone Press Limited.
ISBN 0 85500 129 1
Johnson, R. and Rose, P, 1994. Bodmin Moor: An Archaeological Survey.
Vol.1: The human landscape to c1800. English Heritage. ISBN 0953
Herring, P, 1997. Early Prehistoric Sites at Leskernick, Altarnun
in Cornish Archaeology 36
Ground & Aerial photographs