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

uk/cbasw/

EXCAVATIONS AT BODEN VEAN, MANACCAN, 2008
James Gossip
Introduction Archaeological excavation in a field close to Boden Vean, just south of Manaccan on the Lizard Peninsula took place over five weekends during September and October 2008. The site was chosen as a result of work carried out in 2003 when a team from the Historic Environment Service, Cornwall County Council carried out a programme of archaeological recording as part of an evaluation of an Iron Age enclosure and fogou. This original work was funded by English Heritage and came about because of events that began in 1991 when pipe-laying by the landowner led to the discovery of a shaft containing Romano-British pottery and to the rediscovery of a fogou (subterranean passage) which had been documented in this area since the early nineteenth century (recorded by Rev Richard Polwhele, vicar of Manaccan in 1816). A trench targeting one of the geophysical anomalies revealed the edge of a Bronze Age roundhouse containing fragments of a very large Middle Bronze Age Trevisker Ware vessel, radiocarbon-dated to circa 1300 BC raising questions relating to whether the structure had a ritual or domestic function. The pot was richly decorated with several bands of chevrons and other patterns formed by twisted cord impression and incision. Reconstruction of the vessel on paper suggested that it was the largest of its Figure 14-1: CAS members participate in the period known from Cornwall. Sherds of excavation. Photograph by courtesy of Cornwall CC three other unusually large vessels were Historic Environment Service. also found. The objectives of the excavation of 2008 were to recover more of this pot, possibly to enable reconstruction and display at the Royal Cornwall Museum, Truro, and to help understand the practices and extent of ritual deposition within the abandonment phases of Bronze Age domestic structures. It was also hoped that the excavation would provide Cornwall Archaeological Society members with an opportunity to gain extensive fieldwork experience, whether they were novices or seasoned excavators. The excavation A square trench was opened up by machine targeting the somewhat amorphous geophysical anomaly evaluated in 2003. A JCB was supplied by the landowner, Chris Hosken, and hand cleaning proceeded with members of Cornwall Archaeological Society (CAS). The circular

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/

shape of a sunken-featured Bronze Age roundhouse slowly emerged and divided into ‘boxes’ within which two or three participants could work at a time. Excavation of the roundhouse deposits progressed within these boxes with all artefacts encountered treated as ‘smallfinds’ and their locations three dimensionally recorded. Up to fifteen CAS members were accommodated on each day; the excavation itself was planned to take place over three long weekends, but in the event took five. All participants were offered training in aspects of site recording such as planning, section Figure 14-1: Tony Blackman with YAC members at drawing, context, small-find and sample Boden. Photograph by courtesy of Cornwall CC recording. Some took this up, whilst the Historic Environment Service. majority were happy to hone their skills as excavators – this was a site rich in finds, and everyone was given the opportunity to discover a piece of the Bronze Age for themselves! The excavation was very well publicised, with local press and television present on more than one occasion. (Figure 14-2) Five local schools visited the site and given a site tour and a talk on the history of the site as well as a chance to look at the finds with Anna Tyacke, Portable Antiquities Scheme. A public open day was also well attended, despite horrendous weather. Artefact processing and conservation will take place at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, again with the help of CAS volunteers. At the time of writing the post-excavation process is yet to begin and interpretation is therefore at a very early stage. The following summary is based on tentative interpretation of the data and likely to change during analysis of the stratigraphy and artefacts. Middle Bronze Age The Bronze Age roundhouse comprises a circular cut into the natural bedrock approximately 10m in diameter. The natural ground slopes towards the south and it is likely that the builders chose a natural hollow in which to place their structure. As a result of this the northern edge of the roundhouse is effectively terraced into the slope, resulting in the preservation of deposits up to 0.6m in depth. Three principal layers were identified filling the roundhouse cut. The uppermost two of these comprised homogenous stony clayish soils which appeared to be derived from redeposited natural subsoil, suggesting that the depression had been deliberately infilled using its originally excavated material. These deposits contained numerous sherds of pottery made from gabbroic clay, the main source of which lies little more than two miles to the south of the site. The majority of this appeared to be Middle Bronze Age in date, some of it distinctive Trevisker Ware, but in places later

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/

material was also found. This included sherds of early Iron Age pottery similar to that discovered in 2003, a clay spindle whorl and several worked stones such as whetstones. Buried by these deposits was a thin mixed layer rich in charcoal and burnt clay forming the basal deposit of the roundhouse, within which were numerous sherds of Trevisker Ware pottery, including fragments of the large vessel recovered in 2003. (Figure 14-3) Figure 14-2: Large sherd of Middle BA Trevisker Decorative styles included twisted cord Ware. Photograph by courtesy of Cornwall CC impression, comb stamping and incision Historic Environment Service. and at least four distinct and structured groups of pottery, supporting the evidence for ritual deposition first suggested by the large pot sherds found in 2003. A number of postholes were identified around the perimeter of the cut, cutting the charcoal rich layer, one of which contained two fired clay perforated weights and another a wellpreserved copper alloy knife. It is possible that these objects were placed in the postholes after the posts had been removed, but this interpretation awaits further stratigraphical analysis. A hearth was found in the centre of the structure comprising a bowl-shaped pit with a burnt lining and filled with heat fractured stone, also suggestive of a deliberate ‘decommissioning’ of the roundhouse on abandonment. Iron Age Close to the south eastern edge of the Bronze Age roundhouse was a steep-sided ditch cut through natural bedrock, aligned north-south. The excavated cut was seen to curve towards the east and matched the geophysical survey showing a rectilinear enclosure ditch - the exposed section marking the beginning of the north-western corner of the enclosure. The ditch was excavated in 2003 during the evaluation which showed that silting or backfilling of the ditch was fairly advanced by circa 400 BC. Although it is yet to undergo analysis, initial impressions of material recovered from the ditch fills suggest pottery of a similar date. Within the roundhouse itself sherds of Early Iron Age date similar to that recovered in 2003 were found in the upper fills of the Bronze Age roundhouse hollow. Discrete intrusive features were not identified however and it is possible that this area was used by the Early Iron Age community as some form of midden. Summary The excavation has exceeded expectations by revealing a very well-preserved structure containing a far greater number of high quality artefacts that was initially envisaged. It is hoped that post-excavation analysis will be successful in answering some of the original questions raised by the evaluation; it is certain to add to the knowledge and understanding of the notion of ritual abandonment practices in the Cornish Bronze Age. Closer definition of the site chronology may help formulate ideas on the use of the roundhouse site over time
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/

and its possible relevance to an Iron Age community occupying the adjacent site almost a thousand years after its primary use. One of the main successes of the excavation was its achievement in providing Cornwall Archaeological Society members with the chance to gain first hand experience of excavation and at the same time to contribute significantly to the study of Cornwall’s past. It is hoped that the same level of enthusiasm and involvement will be maintained throughout the postexcavation process. The excavation and post-excavation analysis is funded by Cornwall Archaeological Society with the help of the Meneage Archaeology Group and Royal Cornwall Museum. JG

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