Exmoor is a remarkable place. It is the least visited National Park with few of honey pots to attract the hoards. It also has the most bizarre prehistoric archaeological remains. Consisting almost entirely of small stones set into the ground – the majority of which are barely more than a foot or so high – these ‘stone settings’ have defied any convincing interpretation. Well that is until now. Professor Chris Tilley has put forward a credible account that these ‘stone setting’ locations were assembly and waiting places for the seasonal hunting of red deer. Their positions overlook the coombes from whence came the deer to graze on the open moor. They are also mainly in locations which are down wind to the prevailing winds. Chris Tilley suggests that hunting for deer on Exmoor has probably gone on from the Mesolithic through to the present day with little interruption. Now that’s something to reflect on!
These ideas, and a detailed examination of the evidence, were explored this past weekend. The visit up onto the moor was a great success thanks to wonderfully kind weather – mild, dry and windless. Given the sodden weeks we’ve endured recently the ground was astonishingly dry, a fact suggesting that the dry winter past had desiccated the peat and any recent moisture had simply been absorbed very deeply.