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28 August 2004
Iron Age houses on new Cornish school site

An iron Age settlement discovered on the site of the new Richard Lander School at Threemilestone (Cornwall, England) has yielded a number of finds including pottery wine vessels and 10 roundhouses. For the past eight weeks archaeologists from Cornwall County Council's historic environment service have been excavating the site in advance of the construction of the school buildings.
     Topsoil stripping for the preparation of new school playing fields at Higher Besore has revealed the remains of 10 roundhouses - all believed to date to the late Iron Age (c100 BCE). The exact date of the houses is not known at present but precise radiocarbon dates will be known once work is done on pottery fragments and charcoal deposits.
     Pottery recovered from the postholes and roundhouse ditches includes elaborately decorated wares and fragments of amphora, used for transporting wine and imported from Italy, most likely during the 1st or 2nd centuries BCE. The amphora was imported before the Roman invasion of Britain (43 AD) and is extremely rare in Cornwall.
     The roundhouses are approximately 10 metres in diameter and each is surrounded by a circular ditch with an entrance on the east side. Inside the houses postholes show the positions of vertical posts which would have supported a timber roof structure with a covering of thatch or turf. Hearth pits were used as fireplaces for cooking, warmth and light. Close to the site are two Cornish 'rounds' - settlements enclosed by ditches and banks. One of these was excavated in 1960 and 1974 and appears to be contemporary with the Iron Age settlement currently being investigated. The rounds appear to be unenclosed and in a form previously unseen in Cornwall.
     In addition to the Iron Age settlement, evidence of Late Bronze Age activity has been found. Structures found include pits and postholes, one of which was found to contain fragments of Late Bronze Age pottery and part of a sword mould so far unique in Cornwall. These artefacts date to around 1100 BCE.

Source: This is Cornwall (28 August 2004)

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