Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.

uk/cbasw/

CAMELFORD SCHOOL EXCAVATIONS – SUMMER 2008 IRON AGE ACTIVITY REVEALED
Andy M Jones & Sean R Taylor
Introduction During the course of the summer of 2008 archaeologists from the Historic Environment Service [HES], Cornwall County Council excavated the remains of an extensive Iron Age settlement at Sir James Smith’s School at Camelford (SX 10224 83672), in advance of the redevelopment of the school’s fields for sports pitches. The project was funded by Cornwall County Council and the team worked closely with the principal contractor Kier Western who assisted with the removal of modern layers from the site, which covered Figure 10-1: . Iron Age house (front) and the attached smaller iron working structure. The area of approximately 1 hectare. An earlier archaeological assessment encircled by temporary fencing) (Copyright HES, and geophysical survey by HES had Cornwall County Council). indicated the potential for significant buried archaeological remains to survive across the site. The geophysical survey undertaken by GSB Prospection Ltd located a later prehistoric (Iron Age) or Romano-British rectilinear enclosure on the western side of the development area, as well as several circular ditched structures and fragments of a field system. Excavation The large enclosure identified by the geophysical survey was unaffected by the development, which meant that the archaeological excavations have been focussed upon the investigation of a fragmentary field system, two circular ring-gullied features, and two larger circular enclosures defined by ditches. The excavation of several linear features at the eastern
Figure 10-3: Showing the end of the stripped area revealed what appeared to be part northern side of the large of a field system. Intriguingly, one section of one of the penannular enclosure ditches had been revetted with stone along its internal (Copyright HES, Cornwall County face. Finds recovered from this part of the site are probably Council). Iron Age in date (circa 100 cal BC – AD 42) and the field the field system is in the background (the ‘island’

system is likely to be contemporary with the archaeological features that lay to its west.
Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/

Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/

Unexpectedly the investigation of the four circular features revealed several different types of site, some atures probably associated with circular buildings but also two larger enclosures, which may well have been used for ceremonial purposes. Two structures were found to be surrounded by ringFigure 10-2: . Cleaning the baulk gullies (Figure 10-1). The larger of these was 15m in section of the large penannular diameter and appears to have contained a substantial ditched feature (Copyright HES, post-built roundhouse with a south-facing doorway Cornwall County Council). and a paved entrance. Attached to the eastern side of the large structure was a second smaller ring-gully 9m in diameter, which contained a hearth with evidence of iron working. Both structures were associated with pottery and stonework, including notched slates and rubbing stones and are believed to be of later Iron Age date (circa 100 cal BC – AD 42). A large penannular enclosure 20m in diameter was located to the north of the ring-gullied structures (Figures 10-2 and 10-3). It was defined by a deep ditch, which was up to 1m deep, with an outer bank. The enclosure does not seem to have been a settlement site as the external bank would have rendered it indefensible, and the only feature within it was a single central pit, sealed by two large holed slates (Figure 10-4). A deposit of burnt bone and broken pottery was found in the terminal of the ditch, which might suggest feasting activity. The pottery from the upper fill of the ditch appears to be late Iron Age in date and this is supported by a preliminary Figure 10-4: Holed slate from the pit in the centre of radiocarbon determination from the large penannular enclosure (Copyright HES, residue on one of the potsherds 2015 Cornwall County Council). ± 35 BP: 110 cal BC- AD 70 (SUERC-20414). However, further radiocarbon dating will be necessary to establish when the enclosure was constructed. The site is very unusual for Cornwall and is perhaps comparable to the smaller ‘Royal’ sites which are found in Ireland, or possibly the ring-barrows, which are often associated with them. If this analogy is correct it is likely that the enclosure was a communal site used for ceremonial gatherings and feasts.

Finally, a multiple ring-ditched enclosure up to 15m in diameter, comprised of three concentric ditches, which were up to 0.95m deep, was uncovered to the north-east of the other sites (Figure 10-5). This enclosure was only partially exposed. Apart from tree bowls it was devoid of features, which might suggest that it contained a small clump of trees.

Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/

Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/

However, the chronological relationship between the trees bowls and the enclosure is uncertain. Again, artefacts recovered from the site are comprised of Late Iron Age pottery and stonework There was some evidence for earlier activity on the site. A small quantity of Middle Bronze Age Trevisker Ware pottery, probably dating to around circa 1500 cal BC, was also recovered from a small group of pits that underlay the large roundhouse. This evidence suggests that an earlier Middle Bronze settlement may well be located in the near vicinity. Summary The excavations at Camelford School have provided an important opportunity to study the character of unenclosed Iron Age settlement activity in the north of Cornwall. It has revealed evidence for domestic architecture and perhaps as Figure 10-6: Recording in progress in a ditch terminal of the multiple ring- importantly has also shed some light on hitherto ditched enclosure (Copyright HES, unknown Iron Age ritual activity in the same area. Further study of the remains recovered from the Cornwall County Council). site work should determine chronological relationships between the sites and help identify the activities which took place within them. [Andy M Jones and Sean R Taylor are with the Historic Environment Service, Cornwall County Council. Kennall Building, Old County Hall, Station Road Truro, TR1 3AY]

Figure 10-5: Excavation of part of the multiple ring-ditched enclosure (Copyright HES, Cornwall County Council).

Journal 22. Downloaded from the Council for British Archaeology (South-West) website. http://www.britarch.ac.uk/cbasw/