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HER Number:18163.22
Name:CARN BREA - Neolithic tor enclosure


Twin tor enclosures linked by double ramparts were constructed on the summit of Carn Brea in the early Neolithic period.

Grid Reference:SW 686 408
Parish:Carn Brea, Kerrier, Cornwall
Map:Show location on Streetmap

Protected Status

  • Conservation Area: CARN BREA
  • Scheduled Monument CO79: Carn Brea Castle

Other References/Statuses

  • National Mapping Programme (Morph No.): 377.26
  • OS No. (OS Quarter-sheet and OS No.): SW64SE 5
  • Primary Record No. (1985-2009): 18163.22
  • SMR No. (OS Quarter-sheet and SMR No.): SW64SE 113.1

Monument Type(s):

Full description

A complex tor enclosure on Carn Brea consists of stone-built ramparts surrounding the eastern and western summits, linked by double ramparts running across both the northern and southern hillslopes. The ramparts were reminiscent of causewayed camps in that they incorporated numerous narrow stone-lined entrances and traces of an external ditch were recognised in places. Excavations proved that the enclosure was constructed in the early Neolithic period between approx 3500 and 4000 BC.
Ramparts on the east and central summits of the hill were noted by Borlase in 1754 who attributed them to the Druids. In 1860, Wilkinson recorded a massive stone wall running along the east slope of the east summit. Although much Neolithic material had been found on the hill, the ramparts were thought to be Iron Age, as stated by Hencken in 1932 and the OS in 1970, until Mercer's excavation proved otherwise.
The 1970-1973 excavations clearly demonstrated the Neolithic date of the east summit enclosures and settlement and there were clear indications that both the western summit enclosure and both sets of ramparts were contemporary. The latter were fully surveyed by CAU in 1985 (h3).
Mercer estimated the massive stone wall enclosing two acres of the east summit as probably over 2m high and 2m wide at its base, consisting of upright stones (orthostats) and horizontal slabs (often several tons in weight) facing a core of smaller stones, utilising natural outcrops between which it curves irregularly. A fairly shallow and narrow causewayed ditch was also recorded running in front of the wall on the east side of the enclosure, possibly extending around it. Clear evidence was recorded for a Neolithic date for ramparts 1S and 5S (the second rampart encountered on entering the hillfort from the south) and by implication for 1N (its counterpart on the north side of the hill). The walls resembled the east summit defences in their use of uprights and the incorporation of narrow entrances. Neolithic pottery and greenstone fragments were found in primary contexts in sections at site C.
The ramparts are visible on air photographs (p1) and were plotted as part of the NMP.
(b7) - Hartgroves, S, 1985, Pers Comm, ,

Site history:
1: 1970. ANK / OS
3: 1985. SG, AS / CAU

<1> Borlase, W, 1754, Antiquities Historical and Monumental of the County of Cornwall (Bibliographic reference). SCO2878.

<p1> RAF, 1947, CPE/UK/2368/3050&51 (Photographic Record). SCO12663.

<2> WILKINSON, G, 1860, UNKNOWN TITLE, PT 1, 15-43, 56 (Unedited Source). SCO6135.

<3> Hencken, HO, 1932, The Archaeology of Cornwall and Scilly, 128-130, FIG 36 (Bibliographic reference). SCO3489.

<4> Mercer, R, 1972, The Excavation of the Neolithic Settlement, Carn Brea, 1972: interim note (Cornish Archaeology 11, 1972), VOL 11, 8 (Article in serial). SCO3931.

<5> Ordnance Survey, 19--, OS Card Index (Unpublished document). SCO5189.

<6> Mercer, R, 1981, Excavations at Carn Brea, Illogan, 21-23, 48-50, 56, 62-63 (Article in serial). SCO3929.

Sources / Further Reading

[p1]SCO12663 - Photographic Record: RAF. 1947. CPE/UK/2368/3050&51. ABP.
[1]SCO2878 - Bibliographic reference: Borlase, W. 1754. Antiquities Historical and Monumental of the County of Cornwall.
[2]SCO6135 - Unedited Source: WILKINSON, G. 1860. UNKNOWN TITLE. JRIC. PT 1, 15-43, 56.
[3]SCO3489 - Bibliographic reference: Hencken, HO. 1932. The Archaeology of Cornwall and Scilly. 128-130, FIG 36.
[4]SCO3931 - Article in serial: Mercer, R. 1972. The Excavation of the Neolithic Settlement, Carn Brea, 1972: interim note (Cornish Archaeology 11, 1972). CA No 11. VOL 11, 8.
[5]SCO5189 - Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey. 19--. OS Card Index.
[6]SCO3929 - Article in serial: Mercer, R. 1981. Excavations at Carn Brea, Illogan. CA No 20. 21-23, 48-50, 56, 62-63.

Associated Finds

  • FCO3539 - ARROWHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2501 BC)
  • FCO2323 - AXEHEAD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2501 BC)
  • FCO3538 - PLANT REMAINS (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2501 BC)
  • FCO3540 - SHERD (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2501 BC)
  • FCO2324 - UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT (Neolithic - 4000 BC to 2501 BC)

Associated Events: none recorded

Related records

18163Part of: CARN BREA - Neolithic tor enclosure, Iron Age hillfort (Monument)