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Higher Boden Fogou



Fogou Excavation On Lizard

October 22, 2003:

Archaeologists from Cornwall County Council's Environment and Heritage Service have begun a three-week excavation to investigate an ancient fogou at Higher Boden, near Manaccan on the Lizard, which was recently discovered by a local farmer.

Fogous were last in the headlines in 1996 when Channel Four's Time Team devoted a programme to these puzzling Cornish monuments.

Named after the Cornish word meaning 'cave', fogous are remarkable prehistoric monuments consisting of a stone-lined passage roofed with massive capstones. Many also have side tunnels dug into the natural subsoil and a few have evidence of circular underground chambers.

They are found only in the extreme west of Cornwall, mainly on the Land's End and Lizard peninsulas, and were always built within and beneath settlement sites. Evidence shows that they were built more than 2,000 years ago ago during the later Iron Age (400BC to AD43) and have similarities with underground monuments known as 'souterrains', which are broadly contemporary but are found in other parts of Britain and Ireland.

Charlie Johns, county council senior archaeologist and project manager, said: "Nobody knows exactly what fogous were built for. 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 eleven other definite or probable fogous in Cornwall, only two of which have been excavated in recent years - Carn Euny, near Sancreed, in 1978, and Halliggye, near Trelowarren, in the early 1980s - although these revealed little evidence as to the function of fogous.
This latest excavation is sponsored by English Heritage, which has provided specialist support for the project.

Site visits and tours will be conducted by county council and Royal Cornwall Museum staff. Students from Truro College, local volunteers and the Cornwall Archaeological Society have been assisting with the work.

All about fogous
A fogou, or underground tunnel, has been documented at Boden since the early 19th century, when it was viewed and recorded by Polwhele, the vicar of Manaccan and St Anthony. The reports of later writers (Cornish 1906, Henderson 1912 and 1916) appear to "embellish Polwhele's original report without reference to any further field observations" (Linford 1998, 188).

The site lies on a southerly slope near the summit of a gentle hill, some 300 metres to the west of the Boden Vean settlement (SW 7685 2405) itself one kilometre south of Manaccan village on the Lizard peninsula. The below-ground remains have been part uncovered following two separate incidents in 1991 and 1996, while discussions with local residents have shown that the fogou had previously been exposed 75-80 years ago.

There are only 11 other known definite or probable fogous: Boleigh, Carn Euny, Castallack, Chysauster, Halligye, Higher Bodinar, Lower Boscaswell, Pendeen, Porthmeor, Treveneague, Trewardreva, and 20 or so possible ones. Of these, only two have been excavated in recent years - Carn Euny (Christie 1978) and Halligye in 1982

In the interim note on Halligye, Bill Startin pointed out that "despite revealing quite a lot of information about the Halligye site, these limited excavations have revealed little further evidence as to the function of fogous".
Posted by phil
26th October 2003ce
Edited 27th October 2003ce

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