Archaeological 2016

During our 5 day dig in September 2016, a small team from Cornwall Archaeological Unit will be working with a number of volunteers excavating an area adjacent to The Hurlers (triple stone circle complex) on Minions Moor, Bodmin Moor, Cornwall. This exploratory dig will be assessing the presence of a potential “fourth” circle within the immediate landscape setting of The Hurlers. 

This possible potential “fourth” circle was discovered in the early 1990s. It measures  approximately 21-23 m in diameter and lies 105m to the north of the northern circle within The Hurlers triple stone circle complex. If, it is found to exist, it may comprise potentially fallen (once standing) or even recumbent (lying) stones and while it has been surveyed, this site has not been investigated by archaeological excavation.

We will carefully hand dig the turf and topsoil around each of the stones which have been identified on the circumference of the site and excavate sections of the interior space. An area of approximately 23m² will be opened up. We will be looking to confirm the presence and/or absence of potential stones, any likely related features such as socket holes (the dug holes in which potential standing stones had once stood) and perhaps even levelled “artificial” (made-up) surfaces possibly laid around the stones.  We will look to see if there are large stones which form a possible fourth stone circle and examine each of the stones we uncover to see if, and how, they are placed in relation to one another, whether they make up a circular monument, and if so, whether they have been dressed (worked by hand). We will also be looking for finds such as worked flints and worked stones because these types of artefacts were found during earlier excavations at The Hurlers in the 1930s and more recently in 2013. We shall dry sieve all the soil layers we excavate and these will be temporarily stockpiled close to the excavation area. Once we have finished our excavation, carried out the recording, drawn up measured plans and taken photographs, the excavation area will be backfilled and the site reburied.

This 2016 project aims to build up on the story we uncovered during our successful Mapping the Sun project in 2013 which was part of the HLF funded Caradon Hill Area Heritage Project.  At that time, we revealed again an enigmatic linear stone “pavement” which lay between the central and northern circles at The Hurlers and which was first found in 1938 during a campaign to restore The Hurlers at that time.  In 2013 a neat and compactly made-up artificial stone “pavement” was found embedded into the thin soil. This lay in the space between the northern and central circles and appeared to link the two circles and perhaps formed an alignment.

At that time geological study revealed that the pavement was composite, made up of a wide variety of stones sourced from different places: granites, elvan, altered rock wall, vein material, black surface rock, phyllite, quartz and mica.

In 2103 we found two worked flints of Mesolithic date, a flint arrowhead, a small flint knife and two flint scrapers. These finds add to a picture of a long history of activity at The Hurlers and at this place in the landscape: a story of human activity which may span at least 2,000 years or more. This intriguing discovery suggests that The Hurlers has a long and complex story.  One of the major results of Mapping The Sun was to suggest that source of the standing stones which made up the northern and central circles of The Hurlers had been selected from different places in the local and wider landscape.

The suggestion posed by these discoveries are that the individual stone circles (three here confirmed at The Hurlers) were built and created by different, but linked communities in the Early Bronze Age (c 2500 – 1700 BC). The earliest finds dating to the Mesolithic – at least 2,000 years before (c 6000-4000 BC), may suggest that there were mobile communities of hunter-gatherers active here on the moor long before the stone circles at The Hurlers were actually built.

The Reading the Hurlers team will be looking at the lithology (geology) of each of any new stones we may uncover and then we will compare the results with those that have now being gained from the study of the three stone circles which make up the present Hurlers complex today.