Island Hopping: St Mary’s, the other bit.

Today I walked up to the other other side of St Mary’s. You’ll never guess what I found! OK if you’ve been paying attention you can probably guess.

But first, another entrance grave.

From the English Heritage panel:

Innisidgen Upper Burial Chamber
There are as many as 80 prehistoric chambered tombs known on the Isles of Scilly, but this is one of the best preserved. They are generally of the form known as ‘entrance graves’, and date from the Neolithic or the early Bronze Age. The name ‘entrance grave’ may be misleading, since this type of prehistoric monument is unlikely to have been constructed solely for burial purposes. Such ‘graves’ could also have functioned as shrines or as a focus of ceremonies. . . . Although nothing has been found in this chamber, the walls revealed traces of rough clay mortar, suggesting that it was once plastered and possibly even decorated.

There is another nearby. From the panel.

Innisidgen Lower Burial Chamber
This chambered tomb, an example of a Scillonian ‘entrance grave’, was probably built over 4,000 years ago, when the island landscape would have looked very different from today.

When they say the island landscape looked different, the sea levels were once lower. What is now a lot of islands (about 45) and islets was once a larger land mass, possibly one larger or one major island. They were submerged only about 1000-1500 years ago. Looking at these islands poking out out of the water, it is easy to see them as the peaks of a drowned land.

Puddles should not have waterfalls. Is that too much to ask?

A little remote beach.

And… there’s another burial chamber.

Bants Carn Burial Chamber
Although human remains have been found at some entrance graves, not all contained burials. Sometimes a mixture of greasy soil and ashes, often with small pieces of pottery, has been uncovered. Occasionally, small personal items survive. This suggests that the entrance graves were not built simply as tombs for the dead, but had other meanings. The contents may have been the scraped up remains of funeral pyres, or the deliberate deposit of domestic refuse, possibly relating to soil fertility rituals.

This entrance grave was already ancient when people lived at the nearby Iron Age village. They did not use its stones for building and perhaps respected the monument.

See that bit about a nearby Iron Age village?

Here it is! This will be the last Iron Village I visit. (Although there is a hill fort site I hope to get to, depending on the weather.)

From the English Heritage panel:
People lived in this ancient village over a period of almost 1,000 years . . . The inhabitants had probably abandoned an earlier settlement nearer the coast in about 300 BC, because of increasing wind-blown sand. Among first buildings they raised on this site were a succession of five stone houses on the larger terrace [over the back]. These were built, altered and partially demolished before a new house was built in a different style higher up the slope in about AD 200. Known as a courtyard house, it is similar to others found in west Cornwall. . . . People continued to live in the village until about AD 600-700.

The entrance to the courtyard house. I made a video of it. (It’s a bit sunny so you can watch my shadow filming.)

These little chambers  might have been used as house shrines.

Now we leave the village, but before getting back to town, there are two more things to look at.

A standing stone, which is watching over…

An unfinished Tudor fort.

Under Henry VIII (reigned 1509–47), a new generation of powerful guns was beginning to change the nature of warfare. Unfortunately for England, this was just at the time when the king’s break with Rome made the south coast vulnerable to attack from France or Spain. Henry’s response was to order the building of a chain of artillery forts and blockhouses to guard the harbours and beaches of southern England.

However, despite the strategic importance of the Isles of Scilly at the entrance to the English Channel, no major works were undertaken there before Henry died . . . In 1551 Edward VI’s government found the money to begin building a much more up-to-date fort, the remains of which are now known as Harry’s Walls. This seems to have been an early attempt to mount heavy guns to protect the approaches to Hugh Town, where rising sea levels had opened up a large, sheltered harbour. . . . Although Harry’s Walls was built on high ground, it quickly became apparent to the builders that this was not the best place from which to prevent an attack on the harbour. The headland now known as The Garrison offered a better location, and was eventually chosen as the site of the islands’ principal fortress, Star Castle, in the 1590s.
English Heritage

And there is a last photo of the town.

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