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A guest post by Pip Richards, of the Sustainable Trust.

The Sustainable Trust’s archaeological investigations at Carwynnen Quoit have produced a tantalising look at life in Neolithic times. Run as a community archaeology project and reported by Jacky Nowakowski and James Gossip of Cornwall Council’s Historic Environment, the excavation revealed the full extent of the original footprint of this megalithic monument. Massive socketholes for the three principal granite uprights were discovered. Members of the Cornwall Archaeological Society were among the team whose major discovery was a largely intact and well-preserved artificial chamber “floor”.

This paving was made up of two elements, one of which was a narrow strip of compacted small stones which formed a hard- standing surface arranged in a doughnut-like circuit.  This circuit wrapped around, and contained within, a pavement made up of larger stones. Both surfaces would have been protected by the suspended capstone when it was in place, but, at the front end of the monument (in the north-west), a fine narrow strip of the pavement extended well beyond the shelter of the capstone.

Aerial view of the excavation, showing the ‘pavement’. © the Sustainable Trust.

This is the first time that the original footprint of a monument of this type and great antiquity has been revealed by excavation in Cornwall. It shows that wider Megalithic architectural styles in far south-west Britain accommodated tremendous variety.

The provision of artificial pavements at such ancient sites would have guided movement into and around these open chambers, and their presence suggests formal design which may well have invited proscribed access – that is, guiding the visitor the right way to approach and to enter and leave the monument. These discoveries bode well for the future restoration of Carwynnen Quoit and will help guide future discussions about how the reinstatement of the monument will proceed.

Carwynnen Quoit, pre-collapse. Picture courtesy of Charles Thomas.

Numerous finds of flint, some prehistoric pottery and worked stone objects were  found across the entire excavation trench. Amongst the best finds were a unique greenstone pestle, the tip of a greenstone axe, flint blades and worked fragments of prehistoric pots (possibly Bronze Age) as well as a few sherds of Neolithic pottery. Another interesting find were numerous small granite balls, purposely rolled and many no larger than ping pong balls.

Much of this evidence points to the commemorative role of Carwynnen Quoit over 5-6,000 years ago, and its major purpose as a community monument: for it was conceived, built, maintained and remembered by, and for, the prehistoric communities who once lived in the immediate neighbourhood. Carwynnen Quoit may well have acted as a major community landmark and a place where homage was paid to the ancestors. Tokens of that homage were sometimes left behind and indeed some may well have been removed. The artefacts found show that this place was visited frequently and over a long period of time,and so as its significance for communities finally waned and the monument was abandoned, it became a forgotten place in the landscape.

We have enjoyed massive support of friends, family, media and the local community who have made the Carwynnen Big Dig such a big success. The open day on Sunday 30th September attracted well over 350 people and we conducted 7 site tours to large groups who were able to see at first-hand the excavation team at work. An archaeology week was held with children from the local primary school, with hands-on experience of the dig, poetry and neolithic art workshops.

All the information on the Carwynnen Quoit project will soon become available at www.giantsquoit.org The investigations have been funded mainly by the Heritage Lottery Fund along with a series of events, already posted on the site, running until June 2013. For Facebook users we have a page at Carwynnen Quoit as well as the Sustainable Trust page. The next events are a writing meeting on November 26th,’Sound Bites and Short Writes’, and a Cornish Language talk by Pol Hodge, on December 7th, entitled ‘The Celts are Coming’. Ring Pip on 01209 831718 for details or mail pip.sustrust@gmail.com

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