Rotherwas Ribbon, Herefordshire, UK

Controversial from the moment of discovery, the 'enigmatic' Rotherwas Ribbon was quickly covered up. Sat 30 April 2022

"an enigmatic linear feature" Source

Also known as:

  • The Rotherwas Serpent
  • The Rotherwas Snake
  • The Dinedor Serpent

From Rotherwas Ribbon Unwound:

a serpentine path at least 75m in length, made up of fire-cracked pebbles – on a sloping hillside between the ridge at Dinedor, with its Iron Age fort, and the River Wye at Rotherwas

From The Megalithic Portal:

"A deliberately laid surface of fire-shattered stones ‘draped’ over a pre-shaped course within the landscape. The surface undulates across its 8m to 10m width, and also as the structure descends the slope along the 60 metres so far uncovered. It descends in a series of slight curves as it descends the slope."

The serpent/Dragon/ribbon is thought to coil around the hill forts slopes and into the valley towards the River Wye.

Source: Further Investigation of the Rotherwas Ribbon


  • Red line: Uncovered length of Rotherwas Serpent
  • Yellow lines: Candidate continuation routes to Dinedor Camp hill fort
  • Blue line: Candidate continuation to River Wye
  • Green line: Base of Dinedor Camp hill fort

For more on Rotherwas Chapel, see The Georgian Birth of Christ - Part Two.

Discovered by workmen building the B4399 bypass road in April 2007. It curved back and forth at right angles under the road:

Rotherwas Ribbon, apparently photographed in 2008. Source

The excavated portion was a 60m long winding path of apparently fire-cracked stone. Its lower end widened to 10m wide. Claims for its total unexcavated length vary from 300m to 405m.

From Rotherwas Ribbon Unwound:

Keith Ray, County Archaeologist for Hertfordshire, described the monument on Radio 4’s ‘Today’ programme as ‘a structure that writhes three-dimensionally, with at least four distinct curves, across the landscape’.

Source: Rotherwas Ribbon Unwound

From Rotherwas Ribbon Unwound:

at the top of the picture, the path curves left, then right, then left, then right again, and in the centre right of the picture is beginning to curve left again.

From The Megalithic Portal:

The ribbon-shaped feature is not flat, but is three dimensional as it appears to have been deliberately sculpted to undulate throughout the 60 metres of its length which have so far been uncovered.

View across Rotherwas Ribbon. Source

From Northern Earth:

the Neolithic Rotherwas Ribbon (or Dinedor Serpent) near Hereford was discovered in 2008 (actually 2007) during road construction; it comprised fire-cracked stones carefully laid to form a surface covering a distance of 300m (65m of this now buried under the new road), and dates back to 2150 BCE. 1 As an important archaeological find, it offers an opportunity to study ancient serpent cults in Europe, but inexplicably was not listed as an ancient site. 2 3.

The low relief of the Rotherwas Ribbon indicates a different nature from the Scottish serpent mounds,

Rotherwas Ribbon site marked by red arrow. Source

From The Modern Antiquarian on Rotherwas:

The remains of animals burnt at extreme temperatures have been confirmed among finds from the Rotherwas Ribbon

More images of excvated portion at BBC Rotherwas Ribbon Gallery.

From BBC Rotherwas Ribbon New Photos:

Dr Keith Ray - the senior archaeologist at Herefordshire Council is keen to continue digging on farmland around the road.

He says it's a very exciting find not just for Herefordshire, and not just for the UK, but, apparently so far unique in Europe - it has international significance.

Archaeologists believe this major find may have no parallels in Europe, with the closest similar artefact being the 2,000-year-old serpent mounds of the Ohio river valley in America. The question now is whether the site should be preserved.

The ancient monument has been deliberately laid and runs at the base of Dinedor Hill - north to south at a right angle across the planned route for the new Rotherwas Access Road.

The team of archaelogists think it's been built in a series of opposing curves using stones which were taken from a ridge half a mile away and shattered by being heated by fire and then dropped into water.

To the naked eye it looks like a giant mosaic, similar to a cobbled street and archaelogists think that it may have been used in some kind of ritual or ceremonial activity.

Cover Up Controversy

From Northern Earth, footnote 12:

English Heritage appear unwilling to accept a non-natural explanation (for the Rotherwas Ribbon) – a gravel hollow underlay the ‘Ribbon’ – and the apparent subsequent development of it as a ‘feature’ in the Bronze Age, despite the submissions of the academic excavators of relevant dating samples to c2150 BCE. A full account of its form and possible significance can be found in Archaeology of Herefordshire, Keith Ray, Logaston Press, 2015, pp. 87-88.

Campaigners fought to have it fully excavated and preserved by building the road on a bridge over it. A taste of the public reaction - and more photographs - is visible in the comment section of this BBC report.

From The Ribbon Cover-up:

Internal e-mails obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that senior council officers knew about the importance of the Rotherwas Ribbon on May 11th, and therefore almost certainly before the local elections. They kept it secret – even from elected councillors - for nearly two months. They decided back in May how they would deal with the Ribbon, making a mockery of recent Cabinet reports on options.

Councillor Gerald Dawe (Green), in whose ward the Ribbon was discovered, said: “It is now clear that the procedures of Herefordshire Council fall well short of the standard expected by other UK local authorities and this is damaging our reputation. Scrutiny of these decisions must be done properly and it cannot be rushed just to cover up possible mistakes by Cabinet and officers.”

Copies of e-mails to officers and contractors released under Freedom of Information include quotes from Mairead Lane, the Construction Project Team Leader on May 11th, two months before the discovery of the Ribbon was made public by the BBC Today programme. Ms Lane wrote: “There is a political dimension to the issue, which everyone seems to be aware of... [The find has] ...undoubted national and potential international significance. Ms Lane went on to discuss how “we could turn around a potentially bad publicity situation…”.

She concludes “Further discussion will be needed as a solution is reached to agree an approach to publicity which best benefits the Council / consultant and contractors.”

Unrelated excavations have found a platform of cracked stones nearby (beneath the industrial estate to the north of the Rotherwas Serpent). This showed no sign of having been connected to the serpent trackway.

Also found was an old watercourse:

From Dinedor Heritage Group:

...seem to have involved deliberate placing of quartz along with natural stone from the locality being placed within a hollow on a downward slope involving the descent of water. Could this have been deliberate? Is the incorporation of burnt stone and human bones linked to the idea of transformation?


Source: Rotherwas Ribbon, Herefordshire, Uk. A very special monument

© All rights reserved. The original author retains ownership and rights.

  1. ‘Rotherwas Serpent’.

  2. Gallagher, R. ‘Anthropomorphic Images in Azerbaijan’s Landscape and their possible significance’. 

  3. Marsadolov, L., 2005. ‘Mt Ocharovatelnaia and Mt Siniaia in Altai: legends and reality’. Folklore 31: 57-78.

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