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On Wednesday last week I visited Carwynnen Quoit, or at least the site of Carwynnen Quoit, as the recent excavations were being back-filled when I got there. I had arranged to meet with Pip Richards, Director at The Sustainable Trust, and was introduced to James Gossip, Archaeologist at Cornwall Council, who has been directing the excavations.

The back-filling was well under way when I arrived, but luckily I had visited the site on the previous Sunday in order to take some photos of the excavation, parts of which were flooded following heavy rain, and where I found the various stones neatly sorted by size and potential use – packing stones, uprights, the capstone, ‘field clearance debris’ etc.

The excavation pit, from the NW. © Alan S

The capstone, with sorted piles of stones in the background. © Alan S.

James outlined some of the early thoughts from the dig and I was allowed to handle some worked flints from the site, which indicated very early use. The quoit is of course of Neolithic date, but there is some evidence of Iron Age field systems around the quoit, and a lot of Iron Age and Medieval pottery was found on site, indicating that the site has been in use over an extended period of time – including as a site for Victorian-era picnics, of which photographs exist. If there are IA field systems, then this also raises the possibility of an early settlement site nearby.

The main aim of the recent work had been to identify the sites for the quoit uprights, and in this the excavation has been successful. It is hoped that the quoit will be re-erected/restored/reconstructed (take your pick) within the next three years – i.e. by 2015, though a lot of work will have to be done before then. One of the conditions of restoration is that the Sustainable Trust (owners of the site, thanks to a HLF grant) must be able to guarantee that there will be no possibility of another collapse within a 100 year period! Quite how this will be monitored, or what penalties will be incurred if it falls after 95 years have not been made clear… But thankfully, the use of concrete to stabilise the uprights will not be considered.

There is some history here, as the quoit (first?) collapsed in the 1830’s and was reconstructed at that time. This lasted until 1967 – thus beating the 100 year rule!

I asked James about publication of an excavation report – the final decision on how this will be done is yet to be made. There is the probability of a paper in Cornish Archaeology followed by a full monograph document on completion of the project, once the quoit has been reconstructed.

There is considerable public interest in the project – a recent open day saw over 350 people visit the site (which is accessible via a narrow country lane, and has no parking facilities), and there is an active Facebook Group. A dedicated website, like the quoit itself, is currently under construction (see links below). As we recently highlighted, a writer’s group has been formed and associated with the project, and other community based activities will be forthcoming.

And finally, a foretaste of what may be. During my Sunday visit, I noticed a small construction on the capstone. Someone had obviously been visualizing what the finished article could potentially look like:

Carwynnen Restored? © Alan S.

I am indebted to Pip and James, for taking time out from directing operations to talk to me.

Relevant Links
Carwynnen Quoit Facebook Group
Giant’s Quoit website (under construction)
The Sustainable Trust


October 2012

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