Recent survey and excavation

For such an important site, it is surprising (even up north!) that no excavations had taken place at Long Meg prior to 2015. Had the site been located ‘down south’ (which fortunately it isn’t), it is inconceivable that so little attention would have been paid to it by archaeologists throughout the twentieth century.

In 2015, a small-scale programme of excavation was undertaken by the Altogether Archaeology project in partnership with Archaeological Services Durham University. All the work was completed within one (very wet and very cold) week in March 2015. The results are set out in a detailed report, AVAILABLE HERE.

Prior to the excavations, in the (even colder) March of 2013, a programme of topographic and geophysical survey was completed over the two fields containing the stone circle and the enclosure to the north.  The survey results are presented and discussed in a report, AVAILABLE HERE.

The individual stone numbers used throughout this website are those allocated by the 2013 survey, starting with Long Meg herself then working clockwise around the Daughters. Earlier surveys had used different numbering systems; for the avoidance of potential confusion it is recommended that the 2013 numbers are used in all future work. The individual stone numbers can be seen on the plan, shown here.  This also shows the line of the enclosure ditch, based on aerial imagery and geophysics.

In general terms, the survey of the circle, although more detailed than previous surveys due to the use of modern technology, confirmed the accuracy of earlier published plans. The geophysical results were in many places ambiguous; there is a need for some potentially important features to be investigated through excavation. Rather than repeat all the details here, anyone interested in finding out more about the survey should consult the report.

The results of the 2015 excavations, given that they were on such a small scale, have been quite profound in terms of our understanding of the site. They are presented in the excavation report, and discussed in Paul Frodsham’s 2021 paper, AVAILABLE HERE. Important results include:

  • C14 dates suggest the circle was constructed in about 3,100BC, and that the enclosure to the north is several centuries older, perhaps as old as 3,900BC. Intriguingly, the date for the circle is almost identical with a date for the only other dated ‘Cumbrian’ stone circle, at Lochmaben near Gretna, just across the Scottish border. However, more dates are needed before we can construct a chronological model for the site with any degree of confidence.
  • Finds included artefacts of Langdale tuff (probably fragments of smashed polished axes), Arran pitchstone, and Yorkshire flint, demonstrating links with faraway places. These are almost certainly all associated with the enclosure rather than the stone circle. No finds unequivocally associated with the stone circle have ever been found.
  • The flattened northern arc of the circle was found to directly overlie the backfilled ditch of the enclosure; this is why they have all toppled, due to the backfill of the ditch being relatively unstable in comparison to the surrounding ground. The nature of the relationship between the enclosure and the circle remains intriguing and demands further work.

Much further detail is included within the excavation report. There is still a lot more excavation that could be usefully done at Long Meg, but the 2015 project has made a very decent start.

A further small excavation, by Dig Ventures and involving local volunteers as part of the Fellfoot Forward project, took place in 2022 outside the western arc of the stone circle. This was to investigate potential features recorded by the 2013 geophysical survey. Nothing significant was found, and the potential features all turned out to be natural. A report on this work is available on the Dig Ventures website.

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