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By Alan S.

The final video for now from our tour of Cornish antiquities visits the Carn Euny courtyard house settlement.

Continually occupied for over 800 years, the final phase of the settlement consisted of three large courtyard houses, several smaller oval buildings and a fogou. The fogou was discovered in 1857, and excavated in the 1860s by William Copeland Borlase.

Further information:

Carn Euny – Cornwall Heritage Trust
Carn Euny – Historic Cornwall
Carn Euny – Wikipedia

We hope you’ve enjoyed these videos as much as we enjoyed making them. Previous articles in the series can be found here. If there are other Cornish ancient sites you’d like to see featured, please leave a comment.

By Alan S.

I first visited Mulfra Vean courtyard house settlement in Penwith back in 2013, when CASPN were running a clear-up at the site. At that time the site was very overgrown and difficult to understand.

Since then, CASPN have continued their regular clear-ups, and these have recently been augmented by an additional volunteer team from the Penwith Landscape Partnership (PLP) as part of their Ancient Penwith project, one of 13 projects funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with additional funding from Cornwall Council and other sources, running over a 5 year period.

My most recent visit to Mulfra Vean was prompted by my attendance in October last year at a one-day introductory course to archaeological surveying, held by PLP. The object of the day was to prepare volunteers to participate in producing surveys of sites in Penwith, starting with Mulfra Vean. Although ill-health at the time prevented me from committing to participate in the surveys themselves, I did volunteer to assist in the digitisation of any survey drawings. As I was aware that a significant effort had now been put into the survey, I visited the site to see what progress had been made.

I was met by Jeanette Ratcliffe, the current Ancient Penwith Project Officer, providing maternity cover for Laura Ratcliffe-Warren. Jeannette was kind enough to show me the current state of the survey plans drawn up by the volunteer team to date and gave me a short tour of the site.

The settlement is currently dissected by a footpath which ascends Mulfra Hill, and the current effort is focussed to the west of the path, where one courtyard house and the possible outline of another have been laid bare. This part of the settlement was excavated in 1954 by Rev. Crofts, who sadly passed away the following year without publishing his results. Luckily Charles Thomas obtained his notes, and the results were eventually published in the Cornwall Archaeology Society journal.

Survey by Mr. W. E. Griffiths, 1954 as published in Cornish Archaeology No. 2 1963.

The features to the east of the path have long been hidden beneath dense undergrowth, but the brushcutters have recently been put to good use here, and details of the site can now be seen. First is an enigmatic double bank earthwork, which may possibly be related to medieval mining activity. To the north is another courtyard house, and this will no doubt be investigated further once the western survey is completed.

The current plan is to commence digitisation of the survey drawings by the end of January, for inclusion in a planned web portal which will show the results of all 13 projects in due course. Keep an eye on the PLP website for updates on this and the other projects.

Last week, Highways England’s contractors drilled two boreholes directly into the most sensitive area of Blick Mead. These boreholes, installed for measuring water levels in relation to the A303 tunnel scheme, were excavated without anyone present from the Blick Mead team that over many years has painstakingly researched 100% of every bucket of material recovered from the site.

Not for the first time we are obliged to question the lack of awareness and sensitivity in the approach Highways England have adopted in their surveys on behalf of the A303 tunnel project. Does anyone honestly still believe Highways England’s claim this Stonehenge tunnel scheme is a “heritage project”? Come off it Highways England! Come off it Historic England! Come off it National Trust! Come off it English Heritage Trust! This is self-serving vandalism!

Pictured Andy Rhind-Tutt discovers the Highways England borehole that has been sunk in the path of the auroch hoof prints the Blick Mead project revealed in 2017.

Once again, it’s time to decide who gets your vote in this year’s Current Archaeology Awards, which celebrate both the projects and publications that have made the pages of Current Archaeology magazine over the 12 months, and the people judged to have made outstanding contributions to archaeology.

CA_awards-logo1

As always, there are four categories to vote in, and winners are decided purely on the number of public votes received. Click the following links to see the nominees in each category:

We were pleased to see the Megalithic Portal‘s book, The Old Stones has been nominated for this year’s Book of the Year, and have cast our vote in that category accordingly.

Voting closes on 11 February 2019, and the winners will be announced at the special awards ceremony on 8 March at Current Archaeology Live! 2019. Entry to the awards reception is included as part of the ticket for CA Live! – for more details, see the conference web page.

We recently received a letter from one of our readers, who wished to remain anonymous. Although only conjecture, the letter makes some interesting points regarding the proposed Spanish amendments to the World Heritage Committee’s drafts to the UK re the A303 scheme at Stonehenge. We reproduce the letter here in full:

Dear Sir/ Madam,

Why Spain’s stance on the A303 scheme near Stonehenge?

I wish to support our country. Often I scratch my head at money seemingly taking some precedent in decisions, but one wonders whether it is more important to protect wonderful sights and have imagination fuelled beyond the calculations. Some say yes, some say no, and many do not seem to care, their imaginations increasingly filled by with ever the reality of being able to put a plate on the table and spend more time with their loved ones.

For the last 100 years the car has become a necessity for many, and a driver, excuse the pun, for economic development and continued growth, it keeps people in purpose and freedom. Granted, there are probably too many of them, but this is what we do, we find things and make them into something else that enables a cycle, just like how people once built Stonehenge and made it from boulders from a landscape far away. But there is only one Stonehenge, unlike the cars; and whatever you may think of it, be it a big calendar, a grand gathering place for people to share or enlighten or a sacred place, it’s just there and it’s made it this far.

And so, to question of the Spanish intervention at the WHC42; backed by Burkina Faso, Hungary, Brazil, and Zimbabwe. It was interesting to see that the Spanish amendments (see below) to the World Heritage Committee were in order to undermine protection advised in the initial drafts presented by the WHC mission to the UK.

One wonders whether it has anything to do with potential tenders to Ferrovial / Cintra who are lined up as possible contractors (the others being Hochtief or Skanska/Strabag) and the proposed £1.6 billion finance scheme, or a timetable? I infer no wrongdoing or bias here, or indeed any lack of integrity, noting that the qualified diplomacy on display at the WHC was very impressive. However we must be careful with wanton speculation as there could be a plethora of other reasons; some have said Gibraltar, others may note that the WHC Spanish delegate is the wife to the ex-Secretary of Spain for Industry and Tourism, who knows, the PP in Spain are noted for dodgy deals?

But perhaps if the site wasn’t protected and debated about as it has been, the less scrupulous amongst our own might have bulldozed it already and stuck a big Mickey Mouse ride and a McDonalds on the site for a fist full of dollars; no EH jokes required.

Of course, we are not in the halls of power to make the decisions about cashing in and developing the land or highway, or for me, even comprehend other significances that may be a bit stranger. But if it is the case that it may be done deal, then the best possible solution needs to be found, as was originally proposed by the mission who came to assess the site of Outstanding Universal Value (OUV), so that other people can wander past, or get some vibes, or whatever in generations to come.

Sometimes I think it is just that simple, imagination is a treasure. Is it greater to us folk, than not sitting in a traffic jam for a bit longer, and is it worth more than a public/private contract deal that could literally cut corners?

We have failed in the past through not knowing how to best understand or protect our places of interest, and we learn and guide from this. The OUV should be looked after, all agree, looked after for future generations; but only to the very best of our engineering and planning ability, and with the utmost credence given to the concerns of the community whose work it is to protect and learn and teach from our heritage, alongside the developers. The Spanish amendment reduces this real value for this scheme required for some of the community and was unnecessary. And just maybe, if they were around today, the engineers of Stonehenge might well agree.

Kind regards,

(redacted)

London

Hmmm… so would you or anyone feel it right that a developer that wanted to build in your neighbourhood was allowed to sit in final judgment of the planning department’s recommendations?

That, in short, is what is happening with the now £1.7 billion Stonehenge tunnel.

The Transport Secretary instructed Highways England to adopt a tunnel within the Stonehenge World Heritage Site, and following the planning process will make the final decision whether or not it goes ahead unless successfully challenged in the High Court.

We were impressed enough with this recent photo posted by the Standing With Stones founders within the Standing With Stones Community Facebook group to request permission to reproduce it here.

It provides a comparison between an antiquarian drawing by William Stukeley from some 270 years ago, and the site as it stands today: the Whispering Knights in Oxfordshire.

© Standing with Stones. Reproduced by permission.

Looking at this photo, it occurred to us that many of our readers visit such sites on a regular basis. Also, antiquarian sketches of many ancient sites are readily available from internet searches. So why not put the two together?

If you’re planning a site visit, why not take the time to spend a few minutes in preparation to see if an antiquarian sketch exists? If it does, print it out and take it along then take a snap of both the sketch and the monument from the same or a similar position, and send it into us. We’ll be more than happy to publish any that we receive.

Another video from our tour of Cornish antiquities shows the Ballowall Barrow, also known as Carn Gluze (or Gloose), near St. Just in Penwith. This funerary cairn was used in several phases from the Neolithic to the Bronze Age.

The site was excavated by Borlase in the 1800’s at which time the site was remodeled to ‘improve’ access to the inner chambers. Prior to this, the site had been largely hidden beneath mining rubble, which aided in its preservation.

Watch this space for more videos to come. Previous videos in the series can be found here.

Appropriately, with the coming of All Hallows Eve tomorrow, we have now concluded our ‘Tarot Tuesday’ series, which attempted to link archaeological monuments to the cards of the Major Arcana.

For ease of reference, the cards (and the sites we selected for them) are listed below, linking back to the original articles.

The card meanings which we based our site selections on were taken from the Trusted Tarot website. The card images were taken from the Original Rider Waite Tarot Deck, conceived by A E Waite and designed by Pamela Colman Smith.

We hope you enjoyed the series as much as we did preparing it, but if you think our subjective choice of sites is incorrect for any card, please feel free to comment either here or against the original posts linked above.

And so we reach the end. The final card in our Tarot draw is card I, the first of the Major Arcana, The Magician.

The Magician: “Confident, Creative, Important communications, Skillful, Talented & proficient

The last site we shall be visiting in this series certainly has a magical look about it. The capstone at Pentre Ifan seems to hover inexplicably in the air, delicately balanced on the very tips of three of the six remaining upright stones.

This famous Pembrokeshire dolmen is around 5500 years old and is thought to have been originally covered by an earthen mound. The 16-tonne capstone was skillfully created to have a completely flat bottom and was confidently raised 8 feet above the ground to rest on three uprights. Such a feat shows just how talented and proficient the megalithic builders were.

The site was excavated by Grimes in 1936-7, who suggested that it’s design was influenced by prehistoric contacts with Ireland. More recent research suggests the tomb was built by local communities but may have been influenced by Irish culture and contact (important communications?) during a later stage of its use.

I find it difficult to imagine such a creatively designed monument being hidden under a mound, and have to wonder where (and how) all the earth disappeared, leaving just the remaining seven stones.

Which heritage site would you associate with this card? Leave a comment.

And so our journey through the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot deck is finally concluded. If you’ve enjoyed this series and agree (or disagree!) with any of our selections please let us know.

Previous articles in this series can be found here.

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