Gwithian, Cornwall: Excavations 1949-1969

Henrietta Quinnell, Anna Lawson-Jones, Jacky Nowakowski, Joanna Sturgess, Carl Thorpe, Charles Thomas, 2007

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Jacky Nowakowski
Historic Environment Service
Cornwall Council
Kennall Building, Old County Hall
Station Road
Tel: 01872 323604

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Henrietta Quinnell, Anna Lawson-Jones, Jacky Nowakowski, Joanna Sturgess, Carl Thorpe, Charles Thomas (2007) Gwithian, Cornwall: Excavations 1949-1969 [data-set]. York: Archaeology Data Service [distributor]

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The Gwithian Archive Project (2005-2007) is a comprehensive assessment of the results of two major unpublished excavations which took place in West Cornwall during the 1950's and 1960's. The project was carried out by Cornwall Historic Environment Service and was funded through the ALSF scheme as disbursed by English Heritage.

Site photograph of excavations at Gwithian

For 20 years (from 1949 to 1969) a major archaeological field study of Gwithian parish in West Cornwall was undertaken by Professor Charles Thomas. This landscape study recorded over 70 sites dating from the Mesolithic through to the Post Medieval periods within a 4 square kilometre study area. The stunning coastal landscape of Gwithian has produced some remarkable archaeological discoveries which are principally due to the undeveloped character of the study area as well as the excellent preservation of the archaeological layers which were deeply sealed by layers of wind blown sand. The special alkaline qualities of the sand has ensured the survival of a rich range of organic (with the exception of pollen) materials and the survival of former land surfaces comprising well stratified sequences from the prehistoric and post-Roman periods. The earliest horizons date to the Early Bronze Age.

Two set piece excavations took place: one focussed on the study of a Bronze Age farming landscape and the other, on a small post-Roman workshop centre. Both produced results of regional and national significance. The work was privately financed with small grants from The Prehistoric Society and the West Cornwall Field Club. Whilst interim reports and summary statements appeared with admirable regularity during fieldwork, the full results of both excavations have never been comprehensively published.

Black and white site photograph of excavations at Gwithian

The main aim of the current study is to make the information in the excavation archives accessible by updating the sites' (including finds) documentation and preparing detailed site narratives within an updated framework of current research for these two major periods. A new field survey of the study area has taken place and new samples for palaeo-environmental analysis and OSL dating have been obtained during field work in 2005. A series of radiocarbon (AMS) dates are also now available. The project is producing a number of summary publications which comprise working archive reports and which include results of recent assessments of key datasets and recommendations for future analysis. Three summary articles are being produced for wider publication. One has already been published in British Archaeology in 2006, the other will appear in a forthcoming volume of Cornish Archaeology and the third is a contribution to a festschrift presently being produced by the Prehistoric Society in honour of John G. Evans.

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