The site dates back to around 2,000 BC and was discovered by chance when ANU Archaeologist Dr Catherine Frieman, who was conducting geophysical surveys of a known site outside the village of Looe in Cornwall, was approached by a farmer about a possible site in a neighbouring field.
Dr Frieman, who is a Senior Lecturer in the ANU School of Archaeology and Anthropology said:
He told us about a ‘lump’ on his land and that nobody knew what it was, so he asked us to take a look at it. So we ran our equipment over a 1,600 metre square area and sure enough we found a quite obvious circular ditch – about 15 metres across – with a single entrance pointing south east and a bunch of pits in the middle. We said ‘oh my god – that’s definitely a barrow’.
A Cornish Barrow may not be a burial site
Dr Frieman said ancient barrows in the UK are usually always burial sites, although in Cornwall they can vary and might not contain human remains. She said:
Dr Frieman’s work has overturned the accepted belief that Cornish barrows don’t have ditches. She said of the surveys involving her team, 90 per cent of barrows have ditches. Dr Frieman has arrived in Cornwall and is assembling her team. They will start excavation work on Easter Saturday and have 14 days to complete the dig.
In Cornwall, human remains are only found in about half of the barrows that have been excavated, and not very many have been excavated compared to other parts of Britain.
We want to examine the negative features that look like pits. They may be for holding up posts of a timber structure inside the ditch, or they could be pits that have small cremations in them – something you do find in Cornish barrows. Cremated human remains in pottery in pits can tell us all sorts of things about the people who were there.
Dr Frieman said the things put into burials was usually the most interesting. Stone tools like flint knives and ground stone axes and pottery have been recovered from nearby Cornish Barrows, but gold objects and ornaments of exotic material were also occasionally deposited in them.
The excavations are being carried out in collaboration with the Cornwall Archaeological Society, the Cornwall Archaeological Unit, and with support from the National Trust who own and manage the site.