Hundreds of visitors from the UK and beyond have flocked to a remote corner of Herefordshire as an archaeological dig brings previously undiscovered features of an ancient monument to the surface.

This month, archaeologists have been granted permission to excavate the site of Arthur's Stone, near Dorstone in the Golden Valley.

Like many prehistoric monuments in the borders, this tomb has been linked to King Arthur since before the 13th century.

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.


More recently, the author CS Lewis is thought to have been inspired by the area when creating his fictional world of Narnia - with Arthur’s Stone the inspiration for the stone table upon which Aslan the Lion is sacrificed in The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe.

The dig has been open to the public and people have come to visit from as far away as the USA and Canada.

The archaeologists have discovered what appear to be stone steps leading up to the 5,000-year-old tomb, and tools used by people at the time.


Professor Thomas and the team excavating at Arthurs Stone in Dorstone. Picture: Michael Eden

Professor Thomas and the team excavating at Arthur's Stone in Dorstone. Picture: Michael Eden


Julian Thomas, a professor of archaeology at the University of Manchester, who is leading the dig, said that discoveries made in the last few weeks have changed preconceptions over the scale of what lies in this remote corner of the county.

It has always been assumed that Arthur's Stone is an example of single chamber cairn, with a passage approaching from the back, and a forecourt that opens up in front.

This would be similar to the type of burial monument found in the Cotswolds and in the Black Mountains in Wales.

However Prof Thomas said that what they have uncovered suggests something much more complicated.

Last year, before permission was granted to work close to the tomb, there was an excavation in the next field just to the south of the chamber.

They were expecting to find pits, postholes, and hearths, but instead found evidence of a secondary mound.

Prof Thomas said: "I take this to be an earlier phase of the construction of the monument.

"It gives us the belief that this was a much bigger and more substantial structure than first thought, with people adding to it over a period of a couple of centuries at least.

"When you consider how old it is, dating back to 3700 BC, it really is a sophisticated piece of engineering, and extremely complex."

He added that it was becoming clear that it was almost certainly connected to two other nearby sites, one at Dorstone Hill just outside the village, and a neolithic long barrow at Cross Lodge, a mile or so further east.

While English Heritage said bodies had been found at other, similar monuments, none has yet been found at Arthur’s Stone.

Prof Thomas said that the archaeology of this corner of the country is hugely important to people's understanding of the Neolithic era.

He said: "A place like this is so remarkable. I think it's one of the most wonderful ancient monuments we have and one of the least understood.

"It's fantastic to have the opportunity to work here and uncover some of its hidden history.

"As soon as you find things, it answers some questions and you start to ask a lot more."