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Knowledge is Key
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Remotely located near Penzance in the west Cornish moors is the unique and enigmatic Men-an-Tol stone. The monument consists of four stones: one fallen, two uprights, and between these a circular one, 1.3m (4ft 6in) in diameter, pierced by a hole that occupies about half its size. An old plan of Mên-an-Tol (the name means “stone with a hole” in Cornish) shows that originally the three main stones stood in a triangle, which makes certain astro-archaeological claims for it difficult to support.

One theory suggests that these stones could be the remains of a Neolithic tomb, because holed stones have served as entrances to burial chambers. Its age is uncertain but it has been assigned to the Bronze Age, between 3000-4000 years ago.

Ancient folklore of the surrounding region, however, explains that the center stone has fertilizing and energizing properties capable of curing almost any ailment when crawled through towards the sun. Young children were passed three times, naked, through the hole and then dragged through the grass three times toward the east, in order to cure rickets or tuberculosis. Adults, seeking relief from rheumatism or spinal problems, crawled nine times through the hole against the sun.

The holed stones were also thought to have prophetic qualities and, according to nineteenth-century folklorist Robert Hunt: If two brass pins are carefully laid across each other on the top edge of the stone, any question put to the rock will be answered by the pins acquiring, through some unknown agency, a peculiar motion.

The Men-an-Tol is also thought to be an instrument for measuring the May-August sunrise line, and in reverse direction, the February-November sunset.


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