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Neolithic monument unearthed in Cornwall

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Danielle Gorree
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« on: November 11, 2012, 08:58:08 pm »

   
Neolithic monument unearthed in Cornwall


Archaeologists working at the site of the future Truro Eastern District Centre (TEDC) in Cornwall, southwest England, have discovered the fragmentary remains of a prehistoric enclosure built around 5,500 years ago.
Aerial view of the site. Image Cornwall Council



Aerial view of the site. Image Cornwall Council
An important discovery

Initial surveys of the site were carried out in 2009, with a condition of the planning approval being to carry out further archaeological research. Preliminary findings from the excavations, led by Cornwall Council’s Historic Environment Service, suggest the eastern end of the site may represent a henge or possible causewayed enclosure dating to the early Neolithic period (circa 3800 to 3600BCE).

“A causewayed enclosure was a sizeable circular or oval area enclosed by a large bank and ditch,” said Dan Ratcliffe from the Council’s Historic Environment Service. “These sites date to the early Neolithic – a period which also saw the first introduction of agriculture to Britain, the domestication of animals, the manufacture of pottery, and the first appearance of large communally built and used ceremonial monuments. Both the construction of the site and the activities within and around it probably served to bring communities together.”
Understanding causewayed enclosures
Angela Bilardi with Laura Ratcliffe (both from the Historic Environment Projects team) excavate the pit containing the slate disc. Image: Cornwall Council

Angela Bilardi with Laura Ratcliffe (both from the Historic Environment Projects team) excavate the pit containing the slate disc. Image: Cornwall Council

Recent research in the British Isles indicate that causewayed enclosures were constructed within a relatively short time frame. The concept seems to have originated in mainland Europe spreading quickly through France, Germany, Scandinavia and into the UK. Using the latest in dating techniques along with statistical analysis of C14 results, it has been shown that causewayed enclosures in Ireland appeared earlier than those in Kent, with those in Essex coming in at a slightly later period.

Around 80 sites with evidence of causewayed enclosures are known across southern Britain. The find at Truro – if it is a causewayed enclosure – is the first to be discovered to the south west of the border between Dorset and Devon although the ‘tor enclosures’ at Carn Brea and Helman Tor are thought to have been built at the same time and may have served similar functions.
A very unusual discovery on-site of a slate disc decorated on both sides and thought to date to the later Neolithic. Image: Cornwall Council

A very unusual discovery on-site of a slate disc decorated on both sides and thought to date to the later Neolithic. Image: Cornwall Council
Cataloguing the finds

Now, the team will catalogue their finds, process samples and prepare to write a report on their work, but before then, they will carefully re-bury the partially excavated site to protect it for future generations.

Among some of the remarkably well preserved finds are large sherds of Late Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery (a type of pottery that is first produced in Orkney at the opposite end of the UK) and an unusual slate disc which is engraved on both sides. One side has a distinctive chequerboard pattern while the other has lozenges with arrowhead decoration. It is apparent that this artefact has been deliberately placed within a pit, but it is too early to posit a firm theory about it’s function or deposition.

Often, but not always, Grooved Ware is found within ceremonial and ritual locations, possibly acting as a receptacle for fermented drinks. It ranges in size from drinking cups to large straight sided vessels.
Late Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery discovered during the excavations. Image: Cornwall Council

Late Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery discovered during the excavations. Image: Cornwall Council
Preservation for future investigation

“While it is important that we take the opportunity to learn more about our findings now, best practice is for the site to be preserved for future generations of archaeologists who will have better technologies to understand it than we do today,” said Dan Ratcliffe from the Council’s Historic Environment Service. “Scientific analysis of evidence recovered during the excavations is expected to take some years after the sample excavation has concluded.”

Tim Wood, Cornwall Council’s assistant head of transportation, says: “The proposed development has sufficient flexibility in the design to ensure that the construction above does not interfere with the archaeological remains.”

Source: Cornwall Council
More Information

    Cornwall and Scilly Historic Environment Record
    Historic Cornwall
    An introductory guide to Causewayed Enclosures.2009, English Heritage ( pdf download )
     Mercer, Roger J (1981). “The excavation of a late Neolithic henge-type enclosure at Balfarg, Markinch, Fife, Scotland, 1977-78″. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 111: 63-171.
    Long, D. J.; Tipping, R.; Holden, T. G.; Bunting, M. J.; Milburn, P.. “The use of henbane (Hyoscyamus niger L.) as a hallucinogen at Neolithic ‘ritual’ sites: a re-evaluation”. Antiquity 74 (283): 49–53
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Danielle Gorree
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« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2012, 08:59:53 pm »

..
..Slate disc with incised decoration on both sides. Image: Cornwall Council
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Danielle Gorree
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« Reply #2 on: November 11, 2012, 09:00:45 pm »



Angela Bilardi with Laura Ratcliffe (both from the Historic Environment Projects team) excavate the pit containing the slate disc. Image: Cornwall Council
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Danielle Gorree
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« Reply #3 on: November 11, 2012, 09:01:41 pm »



A very unusual discovery on-site of a slate disc decorated on both sides and thought to date to the later Neolithic. Image: Cornwall Council
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Danielle Gorree
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« Reply #4 on: November 11, 2012, 09:02:30 pm »



Late Neolithic Grooved Ware pottery discovered during the excavations. Image: Cornwall Council
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