Thornborough Cursus, North Yorkshire

Cursus Monument:  OS Grid Reference – SE 286 794

Archaeology & History

In the midst of the great henge monuments at Thornborough — specifically, the central henge — archaeologist Ian Longworth (1965) said there “was built …a still earlier structure known as a cursus.”  This giant monument was one of the earlier such sites located in Britain.  Longworth continued, saying:

“This was a ceremonial avenue, running for nearly a mile in a northeast / southwesterly direction.  The avenue is defined by ditches 144 feet apart with a bank running along the inside of each ditch.  The ditches are now completely filled with plough soil and, as with other cursus monuments in the county, were discovered from the air as two dark lines in the cereal crop… Probably used for ritual ceremonies, no clues remain to show what actually took place.”

Thornborough Cursus (& henges)

This cursus runs almost at right angles to the alignment of the three Thornborough Henges, on the southern side of the central henge, and was first found through the aerial photography of J.K. St. Joseph between 1945 and 1952. When excavation work was carried out, “a crouched burial was found in a stone cist within the southwest end” of the cursus.  This end of the monument is rounded, like the Stonehenge Cursus; whilst the northeast end of the monument has not been located. The southwest end of the cursus begins at OS grid-reference SE 2799 7906 and its northeasterly end is roughly at SE 2881 7954.  The middle of the known cursus is roughly in Thornborough’s central henge.

Paul Devereux (1989) said that the monument, “which had become silted-up and grass-covered by the time the henge was built, had two main orientations, with a curvilinear, irregular section just to the east of the henge.”  Although Norris Ward (1969) thought that the cursus actually went all the way down the River Ure, it stops some distance beforehand, though may obviously have had some important relationship with the waters.

It seems that other cursus monuments have been found close by the henges more recently.  More about them in the near future, hopefully…

…to be continued…

References:

  1. Longworth, Ian H., Regional Archaeologies: Yorkshire, Cory, Adams & Mackay: London 1965.
  2. Pennick, N. & Devereux, P., Lines on the Landscape, Hale: London 1989.
  3. Thomas, Charles, ‘Folklore from a Northern Henge Monument,’ in Folklore Journal, volume 64:3, 1953.
  4. Ward, Norrie, Yorkshire’s Mine, J.M. Dent: London 1969.

© Paul Bennett, The Northern Antiquarian

Thornborough cursus

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Thornborough cursus 54.209547, -1.562994 Thornborough cursus