Cup-and-Ring Stone: OS Grid Reference – SY 680 860
Also Known as:
- Winterborne Came 18b Carving (Grinsell)
Archaeology & History
On January 27, 1848, the great Dorsetshire antiquarian Charles Warne sent a letter to the British Archaeological Association about a series of three large tumuli he’d explored south of Dorchester in Dorset, within which he’d found some fascinating remains. And in what he called “the last of these mighty mounds (and well do they merit the appellation from their vastness),” which “measured rather more than ninety feet in diameter, and sixteen feet in height,” the most intriguing remains emerged. In the middle of what L.V. Grinsell (1959) catalogued as the Winterborne Came 18b tumulus, Mr Warne told:
“About the centre, at a depth of some three feet from the surface, was found lying flat a rough unhewn stone, with a series of concentric circles incised; this, on being removed, was seen to have covered a mass of flints from six to seven feet in thickness, which being also removed we came to another unhewn irregular stone, with similar circles inscribed, and as in the preceding case, covering another cairn of flints, in quantity about the same as beneath the first stone.”
“…It will be seen that the most singular feature connected with this tumulus, is that of the incised stones: examples of which I am not aware have before been met with in like situations. It may be as well to forego any attempt at an elucidation, which must be purely hypothetical; but it seems more reasonable to believe that they bore some mystic reference, rather than that they were the unmeaning amusement of some Celtic idler.”
Sir James Simpson (1867) described these carved stones in his 19th century magnum opus, giving an early illustration of one of them, as shown here. You’ll note that the carving is devoid of any central ‘cup’ as commonly found, consisting simply of a mere series of concentric rings.
If anyone knows the whereabouts of this and its companion stone today, it would be good to see them. Are they kept in some local museum?
- Grinsell, Leslie V., Dorset Barrows, Dorset Natural History & Archaeological Society 1959.
- Royal Commission on Historical Monuments (England), An Inventory of Historical Monuments in the County of Dorset – Volume 2: South-East, HMSO: London 1970.
- Simpson, James, Archaic Sculpturings of Cups, Circles, etc., Upon Stones and Rocks in Scotland, England and other Countries, Edmonston & Douglas: Edinburgh 1867.
- Warne, Charles, “Removal of Three of the Large Tumuli on the Came Estate, near Dorchester,” in Journal of the British Archaeological Association, volume 3, 1848.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian