Archaeologists have been excavating a new site close to The Hurlers stone circles on Bodmin Moor over the last week. The excavation, which took place between 13th and 18th September was part of the Reading the Hurlers project largely funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund with support from the Cornwall Heritage Trust. Around fifty volunteers along with Cornwall Archaeological Society, the local community, Truro College and universities including UCL were involved in the dig, as well as amateur geologists from Caradon Amateur Geology Group and Saltash U3A geology group.
The aim of the excavation was to identify whether a group of stones in a circular formation formed part of a ‘fourth’ stone circle, close to The Hurlers. Whilst this was found not to be the case, the discovery of a stone-lined socket hole at the base of large recumbent stone has led the project archaeologists to believe that the area was once the site of a large standing stone, possibly at the head of a processional avenue leading to The Hurlers themselves. The same trench also revealed the tip of a late-Neolithic flint arrow head. The flint tool, probably knapped from a locally sourced beach pebble, was broken soon after use and showed little sign of wear. Archaeologist and project co-ordinator Emma Stockley said “this is a fantastic outcome for the project. We have discovered the existence of a new standing stone that would have been an important part of the landscape around The Hurlers. The volunteers have worked incredibly hard and we couldn’t have done this without them”. Preliminary geological studies on a number of the larger excavated stones, some over two metres in length, are intriguing and suggest that the granite has not come from the immediate area. Geological project co-ordinator Calum Beeson elaborates ""we've had volunteers carrying out geological surveys on the newly excavated stones and have found that one of the larger stones did not come from the immediate area and does not appear to have travelled there through natural processes. This suggests that it was carried to its current location by human activities"". Further studies will continue to shed more light on this ancient site.
The site’s open day attracted hundreds of visitors including history groups, dowsers, tourists and local families. Guided walks led by Iain Rowe attracted over 70 people and a popular all-day astro-archaeology workshop was led by Brain Sheen and volunteers from the Roseland Observatory. Experts from CAU were on hand all day talking to members of the public and showing them around the dig site.
The excavation received numerous visitors over the week and schools were invited, giving over 80 local pupils the opportunity to view the excavation in progress, question the archaeologists and voice their own theories for the presence of The Hurlers. Pupils were shown Bronze Age flint tools and a replica bronze axe head and learnt more about how people lived on Bodmin Moor 4000 years ago.
The trenches were backfilled on Sunday and the excavation site will continue to be fenced for a further few weeks to enable the turf to re-stablish.
The project findings and report will be available over the next few months, here on the project website www.readingthehurlers.co.uk and the project team will be giving a series of talks locally in the new year.