4.4 Monument Orientation

The analysis of monument (and body) orientation uses four quadrants as its base, each quadrant covering 45° either side of the cardinal points of North, East, South and West. The quadrants are therefore NW-NE, NE-SE, SE-SW and SW-NW. If a bearing is exactly on a quadrant boundary, for example NW, then it counts to the clockwise quadrant, for example NW-NE. These quadrants were chosen rather than N-E, E-S, S-W and W-N because a subjective assumption was made that the cardinal points were more likely to attract orientations of monuments (and bodies) than points in between, and that the actual orientation of a monument or body was likely to be inexact, varying by a few degrees either side of the intended cardinal point. The quadrants chosen allow for these inaccuracies, in an effort to trap orientation intention more exactly as 'broadly N', 'broadly E' etc.

The codes used are 031 for NW-NE, 032 NE-SE, 033 SE-SW, and 034 SW-NW.

The three areas of south west, south and south east have been examined for all five periods from 3500bc-AD43, and the relevant results are set out in Tables 76-90. The section treats monument orientation starting from the broadest picture for the whole geographical area over the whole period.

Overall patterns 3500bc-AD43

The summary picture

Of 1754 sites, 84% of sites either have no particular monument orientation or none recorded. Given the number of sites without particular individual orientation, round barrows being the most obvious, this is no particular surprise. Over the whole period under study the SW-NW orientation is least well represented at 2%, the other three being in the range 4-6%. However, slight variations appear within areas, the south west more heavily favouring NW-NE and NE-SE (10 and 9%), the same bias showing in the south east (6 and 5%), but the south most favouring NE-SE.

Looking at each particular orientation through time in Table 90, it is noticeable that the south west has a disproportionately higher incidence of NW-NE orientations (49% compared with 28% site occurrence), and the south correspondingly less (21:47). The south provides similar evidence for the NE-SE orientation. There are no other significant variations, and it must be remembered that the numerical base is small.

The period pictures

The next body of evidence breaks down the last data into the five separate periods, but combines it for the whole area treated. The period 3500-2500bc in Table 86 shows that 65% of the 129 sites provide orientation evidence, a far higher percentage than for the other periods, which range from 15% providing evidence in 2500-14/1300bc to 7-9% over 14/1300bc-AD43. In 3500-2500bc the orientations are highest in the NE-SE quadrant (38%), and the NW-NE (17%). The bias to those quadrants continues in 2500-14/1300bc (6 and 5%), but then favours the SE-SW in 14/1300-8/700bc (5%) before returning to a NW-NE bias over 8/700bc-AD43.

Table 87 shows the proportionate distribution of orientations through time, and simply reflects the evidence of Table 86.

Select the Detail button for a break-down by area


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