The majority of the prehistoric remains on Dartmoor date back to the late Neolithic and early Bronze Age. Dartmoor contains the largest concentration of Bronze Age remains in the United Kingdom, which suggests that this was when a larger population moved onto the hills of Dartmoor. The large systems of Bronze Age fields, divided by reaves, cover an area of over 10,000 hectares (39 sq mi) of the lower moors. It was in this age that the forset began to be cut down.
The highly acidic soil has ensured that no organic remains have survived, but the durability of the granite has meant that the remains of buildings, enclosures and monuments have survived well, as have flint tools. Numerous menhirs (more usually referred to locally as standing stones or longstones), stone circles, kistvaens, cairns and stone rows are to be found on the moor and there are also an estimated 5,000 hut circles still surviving.
It was not until the early mediaeval period that settlers moved back onto the moors. Like their ancient forebears, they also used the natural granite to build their homes, preferring a style known as the longhouse — some of which are still inhabited today.
Some way into the moor stands the town of Princetown, the site of the notorious Dartmoor Prison, which was originally built both by, and for, prisoners of war from the Napoleonic Wars.