Archaeology & History
Of the four giant linear cursus monuments that were laid out around the landscape that holds Britain’s largest standing stone—the Rudston monolith—this one, the Rudston ‘C’ cursus, is the one we know the least about. This is mainly due to it receiving the minimum of archaeological attention, which can be forgiven round here as there is so much material to explore! Traces of the cursus at ground level are also quite negligible. Thankfully however, like the other cursus monuments nearby, some of the site can be made out on GoogleEarth.
The alignment of this cursus runs east-to-west, cutting across the Cursus D monument and then running above the northern course of Nature’s curious river known as the Gypsey Race, which local folklore ascribes as being used in animistic divinatory practices. Cursus C was first noticed in aerial photographs taken by Prof. J.K. St. Joseph in 1961 and first described by D.P. Dymond (1966) a few years later, who told us:
“Immediately north of the village (Rudston), two parallel ditches, about 60 yards apart, are visible as crop-marks running east-west for 1000 yards… As they are too far apart to be considered as road-ditches and are similar to the linear ditches (of Rudston A and B), they are best interpreted as a fragment of a third cursus, C. The western end fades out near the York road as it climbs onto high ground, while at the east the ditches disappear into Bridlington Gate Plantation. Like Cursus A, this also crossed the Gypsey Race. Approximately 1½ miles northwest of the last westward point of these ditches is the presumed site of two lost long barrows, joined together at one end. There may, therefore, have been an original connection between Cursus C and these long barrows.”
His final remark is quite a good one! And since Dymond’s initial description (according to the PastScape lads anyhow), Cursus C has been found to be much longer than the initial 1000 yards, growing another 500 yards at least! The final point or ‘terminal’ on the eastern end still remains hidden, as it was intruded upon by the later Argham Dyke and the trees. The start or western terminal also remains unfound, so we don’t know for sure the exact length of this giant neolithic ‘line on the landscape’, as Pennick and Devereux (1989) call them.
- Dymond, D.P., “Ritual Monuments at Rudston, E. Yorkshire, England,” in Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society, volume 32, 1966.
- Harding, Jan, ‘Pathways to New Realms: Cursus Monuments and Symbolic Territories,’ in Barclay & Harding, Pathways and Ceremonies: The Cursus Monuments of Britain and Ireland, Oxbow: Oxford 1999.
- Loveday, Roy, Inscribed Across the Landscape: The Cursus Enigma, Tempus: Stroud 2006.
- Manby, T.G., “The Neolithic in Eastern Yorkshire,” in Archaeology in Eastern Yorkshire, University of Sheffield 1988.
- Pennick, Nigel & Devereux, Paul, Lines on the Landscape, Hale: London 1989.
- Stead, I.M., ‘La Tene Burials between Burton Fleming and Rudston,’ in Antiquaries Journal, volume LVI Part II, 1976.
© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian