Feature

Manchester archaeologists carry out dig at 5,000-year-old tomb linked to King Arthur

Arthur's Stone is a Neolithic chambered tomb that's never previously been excavated.

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 4th July 2022

A team of keen archaeologists from the University of Manchester have started a dig at a 5,000-year-old tomb that’s linked to King Arthur.

And they’re hoping to answer some of site’s ancient mysteries in the process.

The Manchester-based experts are working in partnership with English Heritage – which is responsible for looking after Arthur’s Stone in Herefordshire – to remove turf to expose and record what are some particularly-sensitive archaeological remains.

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, Arthur’s Stone is a Neolithic chambered tomb that’s never previously been excavated.

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Like many prehistoric monuments in western England and Wales, this tomb has been linked to King Arthur since before the 13th century, and according to legend, it was here that Arthur slew a giant who left the impression of his elbows on one of the stones as he fell – but today, only the large stones of the inner chamber still stands

The chamber is formed of nine upright stones, with a huge capstone that’s estimated to weigh more than 25 tonnes on top.

English Heritage say that similar examples of chambers in the same region have been found to contain incomplete skeletal remains of several people, as well as arrowheads, pottery, and more, so it’s definitely worth preserving.

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“Arthur’s Stone is one of the country’s most significant Stone Age monuments, and this excavation gives a really rare and exciting chance for members of the public to come and see archaeology in action,” said Ginny Slade, Volunteer Manager at English Heritage.

“Our team of wonderful volunteers will be on hand to explain the latest findings as they happen.”

The dig follows research undertaken by the Universities of Manchester and Cardiff immediately to the south of the monument last year, which has already changed the thinking about the orientation and origins of the site. 

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The 5,000-year-old tomb has been linked to King Arthur since before the 13th century / Credit: University of Manchester

Professor Julian Thomas from the University of Manchester will also lead the upcoming excavations, with a little help from some students from Cardiff University and a number of American institutions too.

“Arthur’s Stone is one of this country’s outstanding prehistoric monuments, set in a breathtaking location, yet it remains poorly understood,” Professor Thomas said.

“Our work seeks to restore it to its rightful place in the story of Neolithic Britain.”

Featured Image – University of Manchester