Archaeologists in Cornwall hope for tomb discoveries among Neolithic stones

By Ben Miller | 18 October 2013

When an intrepid charity group begins a £55,000, English Heritage-backed dig to restore a set of formidable Neolithic stones built by early man in the Cornish town of Camborne, the first spade in the soil will reward 12 years of hard work and adventure.

A photo of a group of people sitting around an outdoor archaeological site
The Sustainable Trust are hoping their finds will be revealing during the second part of a dig at a Monolithic site in Cornwall© Historic Environment
The Sustainable Trust originally established themselves to manage 75 acres of woodland which had been set for development – a “creeping timeshare company”, according to the group’s Pip Richards, were about to build upon these ancient fields.

“They had outline planning permission for 150 chalets,” says Richards.

“In building the first 27 double units they felled 10 acres of woodland.

“So when we heard that they were planning a golf course and that 75 more acres of historic groves were for sale, we made an offer.”

Once saved, the grounds were swiftly put to recreational and educational use. Before their discovery of the Quoit, where the stones currently falling under their focus stand, Richards says the team “pottered on with waste and building projects”, as well as a trip to Sri Lanka which coincided with the disastrous Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004.

"We were there to talk about an eco village with the Centre for Environment and Development.

“While relaxing near Galle, my partner and I were witness to the tsunami from the roof of a small beachside hotel.

“We spent a week in the jungle and later returned to the same place. We lived with aid workers from around the world.”

Raising £4,000 and helping to restore one of the battered villages, they swiftly turned to the task of saving a potentially incredible archaeological site after returning to Britain.

“Carwynnen Quoit was brought to our attention in 2008,” says Richards.

“The 5,000-year-old ruined Neolithic monument was sitting in a beautiful landscape, part of an old estate, which had lost its manor house when the mining industry had gone into decline.

“Currently the Quoit stones are spread around the site where the excavation will take place, ready to have the last socket opened.

“It may solve the mystery of the portal dolmen. Was it really the burial place of an important leader?”

The Heritage Lottery Fund originally agreed to buy the surrounding five acres. Several other funding applications failed, but another successful bid to the Fund allowed the group to carry out the first half of a project which is about to be completed.

“Cornwall’s landscape is constantly under threat,” says Richards, reflecting on the “exacting standards” required while working on Scheduled Ancient Monuments.

“We had great fun with education and outreach.

“From my point of view, the beauty of the site is our ability to make something of what was formerly regarded as a pile of old stones.

“Quoits are iconic monuments, and this one is set apart from the famous sites of West Penwith, in an area where the community has known better times.”

The second dig will take place from October 21-31, with the first of three orthostats set to be restored on the morning of the final day. An open day for the public will be held on October 31.

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More pictures:

A photo of a huge stone being hoisted in an archaeological project
A prehistoric pot found at the Quoit© The Sustainable Trust
A photo of a small brown jagged stone from an archaeological excavation
A notched point-awl© Historic Environment
A photo of a small brown jagged stone from an archaeological excavation
Musket Ball© Historic Environment
A photo of a small round grey stone from an archaeological excavation
Oblique arrowhead© Historic Environment
A photo of a triangular black stone from an archaeological excavation
© Historic Environment
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