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Local Archaeology

 Archaeology 2012 season

 This year our work concentrated on three sites. Most of the work was carried out at our main dig at Slaughterbridge where we have been excavating a medieval village for several seasons. This team extended the trenches from earlier years, trying to identify the function of various features that comprise this collection of buildings, thought to date from around 1300. One note-worthy find from this year’s dig was a slate upon which was scratched out the framework from the board game known as ‘Nine Man’s Morris’. Similar to draughts, this game has been traced back to ancient times but is still played today. (There is even an IPad app for it!)

 

A team was also sent out to a site near Delabole, where we continued the work of previous years on the excavation of a building, thought to be from the Roman era. The major find from this group was a coin, thought to be Roman in origin and provisionally dated to around 160 AD.

 

Pentagon shaped featureA third site that we investigated was a strange, pentagon shaped enclosure, near to Bude. This was our first year on this location but built upon the earlier work of Mark Borlaise and Malcolm Wright, who produced the geophysical results shown here, together with carrying out initial excavations which produced some pottery that is believed to be Roman in origin. Our team, led by our Director of Archaeological Training, Peter Vellet, found evidence to support this view.We hope to continue our work on this site next year.

 The Boscastle, Bossiney and Tintagel Pipeline:

an archaeological summary

 Since May 2009 the Historic Environment Projects team, Cornwall Council, has been working closely with South West Water along the route of the Boscastle, Bossiney and Tintagel pipeline to ensure that buried archaeological remains which are encountered during the scheme were completely recorded. This fieldwork stage is now nearing completion, so a brief summary of the results are presented here.

The oldest site discovered is a probable Mesolithic flint working site, which is likely to be 6000 years or more old. Over 100 flints composed of waste debitage and completed tools came from an area of less than 20 square metres alongside a stream at Tintagel.

Thirty pits, of probable Neolithic date (6000 - 4500 years ago) were recorded along the length of the pipeline. Most contained charcoal or burnt stones, although a few had flint artefacts or broken pottery within them. One pit, near Bossiney contained fragments of a broken bowl, 10 razor sharp flints and a beautiful flint arrowhead. The purpose of these pits is uncertain. Some may be cooking pits while others perhaps represent ritual activity.

A fallen standing stone was found at Trethevey. This ‘tear drop’ shaped stone, nearly 3.5m long and 2m wide had been pushed over in antiquity into the top of a large ditch, and deliberately buried. No direct dating evidence was obtained for this stone, although standing stones are generally considered to be Neolithic or Early Bronze Age.

A large stone box or cist measuring roughly 2m by 0.7m was discovered at Forrabury cliffs. Constructed from large slate slabs set on edge set within a pit, the long axis was orientated north to south. Beaker pottery dating from the Early Bronze Age (4500 - 4000 years ago) was obtained from the cist fill. A similar structure was encountered in the field to the northeast of Trevalga.

A prehistoric field system was uncovered in three fields to the north of Bossiney. These fields did not follow later medieval field patterns and were buried up to 1m below the current ground surface. Artefacts associated with these walls included Middle Bronze Age pottery (around 1500 BC).

A Bronze Age roundhouse some 8m in diameter was uncovered on a north facing hill-slope at Trevalga on the site of the Sewage treatment works. This was totally excavated and is thought to date to the later part of the Bronze Age (3000 years ago).The edge of the house hollow had been lined with slabs and the entrance was defined by several courses of dry-stone walling. In keeping with many prehistoric roundhouses the entrance faced towards the south. Unusually this meant that the doorway faced uphill, which would have meant that the building would have been quite dark and possibly damp. The interior of the roundhouse had become infilled with a thick layer of clay. Beneath the clay was a ring of deeply cut postholes, which would have held the timbers that supported the roof and traces of a central hearth survived too. Comparatively few artefacts were recovered from the site; however, a particularly fine mould stone for a copper alloy razor was recovered from the house. The site will need to be radiocarbon dated; however, the mould stone also suggests that it dates to the later part of the Bronze Age.

Roundhouse

A scatter of predominantly prehistoric pits and traces of removed boundaries have been discovered along the route of pipeline. At Forrabury a cist grave cemetery was uncovered during soil stripping on a site compound. Cists are graves lined with upright stones. The precise date of the cemetery remains to be established through scientific dating. However, analogy with other cist graves in Cornwall suggests that it is possibly a mixed pagan and Christian cemetery. A minimum of 18 graves were uncovered in the compound area. There is a great variety of structures, which include rock cut graves, cist graves, graves covered with slabs, and rock infilled graves. Orientations vary, from east to west, which is typical of the Christian period and to north to south, which is usually considered to be pagan. Although no human bone survived on the site, a rare example of whole jar, which is likely to date from the 6th to 8th centuries AD was recovered from alongside one of the cists. The site has been preserved by South West Water. The graves have remained undisturbed and have been covered by sand and terram to ensure that they were fully protected. After use as a compound the field will be re-instated with topsoil.

Gwithian style pot

 A second early medieval cist grave and other structures were found near to Tintagel. This too was left undisturbed and preserved. 

Traces of medieval field boundaries have also been recorded which has helped to increase our understanding of the pattern of land use during that period.

The archaeological recording programme which is funded by South West Water has already made an important contribution to the understanding of past activity in an area, where comparatively little fieldwork has taken place previously. The programme of post excavation work on the artefacts and samples collected from the pipeline will doubtlessly  greatly enhance our knowledge of the archaeology of north Cornwall. 

Many thanks to Carl Thorpe for this early report on his findings.