Attested:  RC Melamoni

Where:  A high point on Dartmoor, possibly on the Black Ridge near SX6185, serving as a marker point for Roman soldiers yomping an approximately straight line across the moor (30 km from Moretonhampstead to Tavistock) on a route west out of Exeter distinct from Roman road 492a of Margary (1973) round to the north.  Many places on the moor now have Black in their names.  The deep, dark peat in this bleak, treeless landscape forms mires in some places and has been cut through with peat passes in others.  The rivers Taw, Tavy and Teign all start close to here, in Cranmere Pool.

Name origin:  Literally ‘dark hill(s)’ from PIE *mel- ‘dark-coloured’, while *men ‘to rise’ or *mono- ‘mane, nape of neck’could explain why mon- fairly consistently meant ‘hill’ in early names.  This analysis means rejecting alternative possible meanings for *mel-, notably ‘honey’, which was tempting partly because so many later place names are variants on ‘honey hill’, such as Meldon, (Meledon in 1176) nearby.  An outcrop of limestone at South Tawton was quarried for many centuries to sweeten (i.e. make less acid) soils around Dartmoor to increase agricultural productivity, a procedure for which the Roman writer Columella used the word dulcis ‘sweet’.

Notes:  Is this yet more evidence for the relative earliness and military focus of RC's map source(s)? And how deeply integrated into Latin was the loan from Greek μελας ‘dark’?  Did it signify a particular range of colours, or is it evidence for Greek-speaking metal prospectors?

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Last Edited: 16 August 2016