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17.02.06
Exciting archaeological finds uncovered at Goss Moor during A30 improvements

Archaeologists working on the £93m A30 Bodmin to Indian Queens bypass have made a number of new discoveries while working along the route of the new road.

The route of the new A30 was carefully designed to avoid damaging ancient monuments or their visual setting and surveys have been taking place during the initial phase of works on site.

The results of the archaeological fieldwork will be made available to the public through a series of lectures and museum displays. Finds that can be removed will be deposited at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.

The site of the discoveries will eventually be covered by the new road once they have been thoroughly recorded by archaeologists. Academic reports are due to be completed by the time the road is finished in July 2007.

The extensive £500,000 archaeological excavation, commissioned by the Highways Agency as part of the new road scheme, was carried out along a 10 metre wide trench along the whole seven kilometre stretch of the new road.

The most recent discovery is a late Neolithic (3000-2000BC) ceremonial monument known as a circle-henge or pit circle found at Deep Tye Farm, about one kilometre south of Castle-an-Dinas hillfort.

Stuart Foreman, of Oxford Archaeology, which carried out the excavation work on behalf of the Highways Agency said: "The Deep Tye Farm site is a modest example of this type of monument, which can reach quite lavish proportions. Stonehenge is the best known example. Such monuments were built by the early farming communities of Britain during the Neolithic period."

The aim was to uncover any previously unknown sites by stripping topsoil from large sections of the route, well in advance of the main construction works and then mapping and investigating any burial features. Such work helps archaeologists build a more complete picture of life on Goss Moor, taking the opportunity of the new road scheme to carry out their work.

Typically henges are a form of ditched enclosure with one or two entrances. Others like Deep Tye Farm have multiple entrances and can enclose settings of stones or timber posts. Such monuments can incorporate astronomical alignments such as the winter or summer solstice, although this does not appear to be the case at Deep Tye Farm.

Mr Foreman said: "The purpose of these monuments is not certain, although it is generally accepted that they acted as arenas for ceremonial gatherings and ritual. They were places of ritual offerings, sometimes involving sacrifice of animals and more rarely people. Some sites also served as cemeteries for human cremation burials."

The Deep Tye Farm henge is believed to be the first example of this type of circle-henge to be found in Devon and Cornwall. Large-scale henge monuments are known in the region, including the earthwork at Castilly Henge, which lies at the eastern end of the road scheme near the Innis Downs roundabout, and the Stripple Stones on Bodmin Moor which contains a circle of stones.

The Deep Tye Farm site consists of pits forming a segmented ditch, 10m in diameter and an inner arc of 10 postholes, with a large gap facing due south. The postholes may have contained a simple arrangement of free-standing wooden posts or a more elaborate structure. No artefacts have yet been recovered from the Deep Tye Farm site, although sieving of soil filling the pits may yet recover distinctive pottery, flint tools, or charcoal that can be radiocarbon dated.

The remains of a large roundhouse, thought to be 2,000 years old, have also been found at Lower Trenoweth, near Belowda.

The dwelling was probably home to a family of Romano British farmers who may have been engaged in tin production from the headwaters of the River Fal, which lie nearby. Goss Moor contained the most accessible alluvial tin deposits in Cornwall.

Archaeology Foundation Course students from Truro College, helping the Highways Agency's archaeologists to excavate the roundhouse site, have found a large section from a pottery jar which indicates that the structure is late Iron Age or Roman in date. The jar is hand-made but finely finished and burnished on the outside, and is most likely dating from around 50BC to 100AD.

The group of 12 students were taking part in a one-week training excavation hosted by professional archaeologists from Oxford Archaeology. The date and role of the building had previously been in question due to a lack of artefacts, so the find was particularly welcome.

Mr Foreman said: "Excavated sites of this period are comparatively rare in Cornwall at present, so the site is an important one for the region. A second similar roundhouse has been found less than a kilometre to the east, although it has no associated artefacts at present. The general scarcity of artefacts from these buildings, their single phase of construction, the exposed upland location, and evidence from charred plant remains, suggest that they may not have been occupied for very long, and might even have been seasonal dwellings or shelters, rather than permanent settlements."

It is speculated that the buildings might have been used as seasonal shelters by tinners, although no evidence for tin ores or working have been found at either of the sites so far.

Mr Foreman said: "Shedding light on early tin extraction is one of the key objectives of the A30 archaeological project, as the area is rich in tin workings of the 18th to 20th centuries. Cornwall is one of only two sources of tin in Western Europe. The Roman writer Diodorus Siculus recorded, in c8BC, that the late Iron Age inhabitants of the peninsular extracted and smelted tin ore and traded it to the Mediterranean region via middlemen, but little is known for certain about the scale, or the social and economic context, of the industry."

The A30 Bodmin to Indian Queens scheme will ease traffic delays for local people and visitors alike, reduce accidents and bring environmental gains to the precious habitat of Goss Moor and Tregoss Moor.

For further information please contact Walim Wong on 01752 635053.

The Objective One Programme for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly has invested in the Goss Moor and Environs Rural Issues and Opportunities Feasibility project through the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund (EAGGF).

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Editor's notes:

1. The Highways Agency is an Executive Agency of the Department for Transport which manages, maintains and improves the network of trunk roads and motorways in England on behalf of the Secretary of State.
2. The route of the new A30 was carefully designed to avoid damaging ancient monuments, or their visual setting. Although the road corridor passes through an area comparatively rich in archaeological remains, including the scheduled ancient monuments of Castle-an-Dinas and Castilly Henge, Bronze Age barrow cemeteries at Saffron Park and Innis Downs and important 18th to 20th century tin mining features, careful planning has avoided damage to any of the known monuments.
3. The Highways Agency traffic information website is at www.highways.gov.uk/trafficinfo
4. For real-time traffic information, the Highways Agency 24-hour voice activated telephone service is on 08700 660 115. (Calls from BT landlines to 0870 numbers will cost no more than 8p per minute; mobile calls usually cost more)
5. For general information about the Highways Agency and its work, visit the Highways Agency website www.highways.gov.uk, or telephone the Highways Agency information line on 08457 50 40 30 (Calls from BT landlines to 0845 numbers will cost no more than 4p per minute; mobile calls usually cost more. Service operates: 08.00 - 20.00 weekdays, 09.00 - 17.00 weekends).

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Clare Morgan
Media Relations Manager
Objective One Partnership Office
Castle House
Pydar Street
Truro TR1 2UD
Mobile: 07973 813647
Telephone: 01872 223439

cmorgan@cornwall.gov.uk

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