Mên Scryfa

Highlights: Heritage, Monument, Granite
Location: SW 4269 3530
What’s nearby: Lanyon Quoit, Mên an Tol, Nine Maidens Stone Circle, Ding Dong Mine
Conservation: Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), Scheduled Monument, National Trust

 Information here is provided for reference only. You should ensure you have suitable footwear and clothing when visiting all sites.

Mên Scryfa is an inscribed standing stone (a menhir) found in Penwith, west Cornwall, constructed from porphyritic biotite mica granite.

Mên Scryfa (meaning “stone with writing” is a single standing stone (menhir), located on the Penwith moors. The inscription is thought to date from the early medieval period, around the 6th Century, although it is possible the stone was originally erected in the Bronze Age, in keeping with other standing stones in the region.

The stone stands in a middle of a field, close to other monuments including the Mên-an-tol and Lanyon Quoit. It is around 1.8 metres high and roughly rectangular, tapering towards the top. The inscription in debased Roman Capitals on the north face “RIALOBRANI CUNOVALI FILI” translates as “Rialobranus son of Cunovalus” or “Royal Raven son of the Glorious Prince” if translating from Cornish.

William Borlase, the Cornish geologist, naturalist and antiquary, described the stone in 1769 as lying on the ground and being 9ft 10ins long (about 3 metres). It was thought to be erected again in 1825 before being toppled again in 1849 by treasure hunters. When the stone was erected once again in around 1862, the last word of the inscription was buried along with about 1.1 metres of the stone – the full inscription is known from the descriptions by William Borlase and another Cornish archaeologist, John Thomas Blight.

The stone is constructed from coarse-grained, porphyritic biotite granite (type G3a). This type of granite is common in the Land’s End Granite, which is part of the large mass of granite that lies underneath southwest England termed the Cornubian Batholith. Within the granite you can find the distinctive large (>25 mm long) white rectangular alkali feldspars typical of this type of granite, along with grey rounded quartz, dark brown shiny biotite micas, blueish-grey rectangular cordierite and white rectangular plagioclase feldspar.

The granite formed in the Early Permian and nearby granite at Newmill is dated as being 275 million years old. All of the granites in southwest England formed at the end of the Variscan Orogeny, a mountain building event. During mountain building events, heat and pressure results in melting of the crust. As the earth’s crust was stretching apart at the end of the Variscan Orogeny, these melts were emplaced through fault systems over millions of years.

Stories and people
The stone was thought to be chosen as it represented the height of the slain warrior who was killed in a battle very close to the current location of the stone. That’s one tall warrior at 3 metres if using the total length of the stone recorded by Borlase! The person for whom the stone was inscribed could possibly be a cousin or great uncle of King Arthur, although this remains unknown.

Further Reading & References

  • Borlase, W. 1769. Antiquities, Historical and Monumental, of the County of Cornwall, Bowyer and Nichols: London
  • Historic England Research Records, Men Scryfa [online]
  • There is a 3D model of the stone here: [link].