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28 October 2003
New fogou excavation in Cornwall

County Council archaeologists in Cornwall (England) began the three-week excavation of an ancient fogou in late October. The prehistoric monument, a stone-lined passage roofed with massive capstones, was recently discovered at Higher Boden, near Manaccan, on the Lizard Peninsula in the far west of Cornwall.
     Fogous, from the old Cornish word for cave, are only found in the extreme west of the county, mainly on the Lizard and around Land’s End. They were always built within and beneath settlement sites. Many have side tunnels and a few show evidence of circular underground chambers. Dated to the Late Iron Age, 400 BCE to 43CE, fogous are similar to the roughly contemporary ‘souterrains’ found elsewhere in Britain and Ireland.
     “Nobody knows exactly what fogous were built for,” said Charlie Johns, County Council senior archeologist and project manager. “The three most popular theories are that they were refuges in times of trouble, cellars for storing food and livestock or that they served a religious or ritual function – perhaps it was a combination of all three. This is an amazing and extremely rare discovery.”
     There are only 11 other definite or probable fogous known, and around 20 other possible sites. Of the definite sites, only two have been excavated in recent years – Carn Euny, near Sancreed, in 1978 and Halligye, near Trelowarren, in 1982. The latest dig is sponsored by English Heritage, which has also provided specialist support. Students from Truro College, local volunteers and the Cornwall Archaeological Society have also been assisting.

Source: cornwall24 (22 October 2003)

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