Field Work with the Tamar Dowsers
at King Arthur’s Hall
After many years of persuasion, not least by TD member, Stuart Dow, an archaeological dig at King Arthur’s Hall on Bodmin Moor was undertaken in mid-September - co-ordinated by Natalie Haly of the Cornwall AONB Unit.
Various local organisations were invited to join the project - and as Stuart is both a keen amateur archaeologist and a TD, we were offered the opportunity to be part of the party. It was too good an offer to refuse.
In a nutshell, dowsers were able to engage with local historians, photographers, astronomers, archaeologists and the general public. The response was overwhelmingly enthusiastic, with many who had no prior knowledge of dowsing - or of its relationship with ancient sites - picking up rods for the first time.
TDs Helen Fox and Neve Heartwood actually joined in with some of the trowelwork at a test area adjacent to a leaning upright. See right - together with an image of their hole resplendent with orbs.
To say that King Arthur’s Hall is an enigma would be a serious understatement. For those who have not come across it, KAH appears to be a swimming-pool-sized pit dug out of the moorland peat, situated a couple of miles away from the nearest habitation - the village of St Breward. The rectangular hole is lined on all four sides with an upright ‘retaining’ wall made from local granite slabs. And that’s just about it.
The various suggestions for its previous purpose or use all seem flawed, and no-one has come up with a credible explanation of how or why such a grand time-and-effort-consuming undertaking came to be built in such an inhospitable an seemingly out-of-the-way place.
As a livestock holding area, it appears to have no ramp or means of getting animals in or out in one piece. As an abattoir or storage area, it lacks any assemblage of animal remains. Very little has been found in the way of human artefacts, indicating that it was not a place of regular habitation.
Some ideas have acquired a little traction. It might have been a place of assembly (hence the Hall) or worship, but why the dignitaries would be at a lower physical level to the ‘congregation’ is inexplicable. It could have been a place of storage for harvested crops - but we would expect to find evidence of this in the upper layers of soil, and without a weatherproof roof . . .
The current dig looked at a number of local potential spots nearby, which might have been the abodes of those who dug out the ‘hall’, but came up with little more than an old field boundary. Our dowsing suggested that the actual builders lived in well-documented villages closer to Rough Tor and Brown Willy - four or five miles to the north east.
It could, as TD member David Lockwood dowsed, have been related to fish. The dig being undertaken will hopefully resolve the question as to whether or not the floor is solid under several metres of decayed vegetation. If so, then some form of giant fishpond might seem possible. That could be more credible if the standing water supported other aquatic life, such as eels. However, while an undertaking on this scale may well have had a series of uses once in place, the primary digging of such a facility for a prototype fish farm seems a little unlikely.
As with much dowsing at ancient sites, I feel that initially it does come back to the presence water. Almost in the centre of the oblong pit is a spring, which still feeds a modest patch of surface water - even towards the end of this, the driest of summers in recent memory. The water itself dowses as pretty drinkable, were it not for the surface pollution. As with many churches, henges and other sacred sites, access to clean, potentially healing, water sets off a chain of social interactions that lead to the establishment of the holy well and the inner temple.
Earth energy lines traverse the site, and there are the usual energy spirals where they cross, but not of the complexity of, say, the Hurlers. EEs may have influenced the unfolding importance of the site, but don’t seem to have been its unique selling point.
Each time I have dowsed there, I have asked for leys, as this seems to have been a essentially human-centric structure. I am drawn to crossing leys - and here I am referring to lines of consciousness or sight, rather than energy leys as such. They straddle the site from corner to corner, and in my view were almost certainly responsible for the shape and the orientation of KAH. Other researchers have shown them to align to the rising and setting suns of the winter and summer solstices. I was pleased that I only found this latter nugget of information long after discovering the leys for myself. Such a correlation should never be necessary to justify a dowsing result - but it is still reassuring when it happens.
Perhaps the most intriguing idea comes from someone who has presented to the TDs in the past,and has expressed a willingness to do so again, when her forthcoming book is printed. Carolyn Kennett is an astroarchaeologist (spell check didn’t like that!), who suggests that if the pond were full of water, it would be able to reflect the clear night sky to watchers on the surrounding banks. As above, so below - drawing down the power of the heavens to intermingle with the energies of the earth. It’s a neat idea and certainly could work on a smaller scale. One could argue that there would be very few totally still, clear night skies on Bodmin Moor, even in the Neolithic, but maybe I’m being a bit too prosaic.
The only comparable site to KAH that I have come across is Le Jardin des Moines (Garden of the Monks) in the forest of Brocéliande in Brittany. But it is much smaller and has no obvious aquatic connotations.
Many thanks to Natalie Haly for inviting us to be part of the project and for being so accommodating, to Stuart for getting us involved in the first place and to Ros Twinn for showing an unexpectedly large number of people how to dowse in the TDs gazebo, while the rest of us swanned off up to the site to exchange ideas with other specialists.