Stratford St. Mary Cursus, Suffolk

Cursus Monument:  OS Grid Reference – TM 0486 3433

Archaeology & History

Faint flat outline of SE end + ancient circular enclosure

This short and dead straight cursus monument was first described in John Hedges’ (1981) survey, and later mentioned in Harding & Lee’s (1987) corpus on British henges as being in conjunction with a series of circular prehistoric monuments (three circular enclosures existed beyond its southeast and one to its northeast edges, one of which is visible in the aerial image, right).

Cursus ground-plan (courtesy Suffolk Institute Archaeology)

Most of the monument has been completely destroyed by roads and housing, but when complete was said to be 317 yards (290m) long, running from the southeast to the northwest.  The flattened southeastern edge measures nearly 63 yards (57.3m) across, and its northernmost width was close to 65 yards (60m) wide.

In Patrick Taylor’s (2015) assessment of this (and other monuments) he thought that the cursus may have served an astronomical function.  He may be right.  It’s alignment, he told,

“has a very clear orientation 38.5º north of grid west.  This represents an amplitude from true west of 40.9º.  Allowing for a latitude of 51.97º and altitude of 0.95º, adjusted downwards for refraction to 0.50º, we get from (Alexander) Thom’s table a declination for a body setting to the northwest of 24.15.º  This is only 0.23º, just less than half the width of the sun’s disc, more than the sun’s maximum declination in Neolithic times of 23.92º.  The alignment thus points rather accurately towards the upper limb or last setting point of the sun.”

Faint remnants of a second cursus monument have been discovered 400 yards to the east.

References:

  1. Harding, A.F. & Lee, G.E.,, Henge Monuments and Related Sites of Great Britain, BAR 175: Oxford 1987.
  2. Hedges, John D. & Buckley, David, Springfield Cursus and the Cursus Problem, ECC 1981.
  3. Last, Jonathan, “Out of Line: Cursuses and Monument Typology in Eastern England,” in Barclay & Harding’s Pathways & Ceremonies, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
  4. Martin, Edward A., “When is a Henge not a Henge?” in Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute for Archaeology & History, volume 35, 1981.
  5. Taylor, Patrick, Timber Circles in the East, Polystar: Ipswich 2015.

AcknowledgementsMany thanks to the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, for use of their ground-plan diagram from Edward Armstrong’s article, ‘When is a Henge Not a Henge?’ 

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

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About megalithix

Occultist, prehistorian and independent archaeological researcher, specializing in prehistoric rock art, Neolithic, Bronze Age & Iron Age sites, and the animistic cosmologies of pre-Christian & traditional cultures.
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