The Evaluation of a Multi-Period Prehistoric Site and Fogou at Boden Vean, St Anthony-in-Meneage, Cornwall

Charlie Johns, James Gossip, 2009

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Charlie Johns, James Gossip (2009) The Evaluation of a Multi-Period Prehistoric Site and Fogou at Boden Vean, St Anthony-in-Meneage, Cornwall [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]


The narrowed entrance to the main fogou passage

During October and November of 2003 a team from the Historic Environment Service (HES), Cornwall County Council carried out a programme of archaeological recording as part of an evaluation of a Bronze Age structure, Iron Age enclosure and fogou at Boden Vean, St Anthony-in-Meneage, Cornwall. The site is situated one kilometre to the south of the village of Manaccan on the eastern side of the Lizard Peninsula (centred on NGR SW 7685 2405). The work was funded by English Heritage.

In 1991 pipelaying by the landowner led to the discovery of a possible well shaft containing Romano-British pottery and rotary querns, and to the rediscovery of a fogou which had been documented in this area since the early nineteenth century and had been a folk memory since the early twentieth century. Geophysical survey by English Heritage in 1992 and 1993 identified a rectangular enclosure and multi-phase field system, and then in 1996 a void opened during agricultural operations, exposing a subterranean tunnel. The 2003 excavations were undertaken to better understand the fogou and its context, and to guide its future management.

In addition to partial excavation of the fogou, additional geophysical anomalies were targeted revealing a Bronze Age structure containing fragments of a huge Trevisker Ware vessel, radiocarbon-dated to between 1500-1300 cal BC (95% probability) and 1390-870 cal BC (95% probability), raising questions relating to its ritual or domestic function. The fogou and surrounding rectlinear ditched enclosure contemporary with the fogou produced radiocarbon dates suggesting construction in the Later Early Iron Age, around 400BC. The fogou and features associated with the enclosure produced an unusually large assemblage for Cornwall of pottery from this period and Romano-British pottery indicates re-use of the site in the early centuries AD. An important collection of Post-Roman Gwithian style pottery - platters, bowls, jars - showed the site to have been in use around the sixth century AD. For the first time a radiocarbon date has been secured for this type of pottery of cal AD 590 - 670 (95% probability). An important element of the project has been the dating programme, providing early dates for both the fogou and enclosure and a date for Gwithian style ceramics.

The archaeological fieldwork provided a rare opportunity to investigate in situ deposits in a fogou which had been spared disturbance by antiquarian explorers, and to assess its context within a contemporary settlement enclosure. The work has helped guide the future management of the site and through consolidation of the void to ensure its future preservation.