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Prehistoric entrance grave 900m north west of Tregiffian Farm

A Scheduled Monument in St. Buryan, Cornwall

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Coordinates

Latitude: 50.0644 / 50°3'51"N

Longitude: -5.5918 / 5°35'30"W

OS Eastings: 143044.839455

OS Northings: 24429.395603

OS Grid: SW430244

Mapcode National: GBR DXKH.ZCH

Mapcode Global: VH05P.1N51

Entry Name: Prehistoric entrance grave 900m north west of Tregiffian Farm

Scheduled Date: 9 December 1968

Last Amended: 20 February 1996

Source: Historic England

Source ID: 1013665

English Heritage Legacy ID: 15409

County: Cornwall

Civil Parish: St. Buryan

Traditional County: Cornwall

Lieutenancy Area (Ceremonial County): Cornwall

Church of England Parish: St Buryan

Church of England Diocese: Truro

Details

The monument includes a large prehistoric entrance grave situated 2.5km
south east of St Buryan, near the southern coast of the Penwith peninsula in
west Cornwall. The entrance grave is in the care of the Secretary of State.
The entrance grave survives with a sub-circular mound of earth and rubble, 15m
in diameter, within which is a peripheral kerb and a funerary chamber in its
south west quadrant. The mound's north western third has been levelled by the
course of a modern metalled road, from which the visible `D'-shaped mound
extends up to 9.25m to the south east. The truncated north west face of the
mound is revetted by a modern granite rubble facing.
The kerb is located 1.75m-2m within the mound's perimeter, visible as a curve
of edge-set slabs on the south west and south, plus a single large slab, 2.15m
long, at the south east. The kerb slabs maintain an almost level upper edge
but their exposed height rises to 0.75m on the south due to a drop in the
height of the mound periphery. This more prominent southern sector of the kerb
is located directly beyond the funerary chamber entrance and, slightly offset
from the entrance, it incorporates an unusually large slab, 1.95m long and
0.7m high, flanked to each side by a tall narrow slab, an arrangement
considered to denote a deliberate symbolic blocking of the chamber entrance.
Within the kerb, the mound has an asymmetrical shallow-domed surface, rising
to 1m high towards the western edge. Immediately east of the highest point,
the south western quarter of the mound contains the funerary chamber.
Internally, the chamber measures 4.9m along its NNE-SSW long axis by up to
1.9m wide, with the entrance at the SSW. The chamber walls combine roughly
coursed slabs and rubble together with large edge-set slabs, up to 1.45m long
and 0.9m high, whose upper edges are levelled up with smaller slabs to give a
chamber height of 0.9m. The chamber's intact NNE walling shows the chamber
sides bulge out slightly in plan, but the SSW walling has suffered some
stone-robbing, obscuring original detail. The chamber is roofed by massive
slabs, called capstones, spanning the chamber width. Four capstones survive,
up to 2.85m long, 1.5m wide and 0.3m thick: three remain in place over the NNE
end of the chamber while the fourth has collapsed behind the chamber entrance
and now lies tilted on the floor.
The chamber's entrance is constricted by two edge-set `portal' slabs, 0.8m
apart, with two smaller slabs fallen into the gap between them. The portal
slabs are offset from the chamber's midline in the same manner as the blocking
arrangement in the outer kerb. The western portal slab has a plain surface. By
contrast, the eastern portal slab, 0.75m high and 1.15m wide, has its southern
face entirely covered by a network of 25 circular and ovoid carved hollows, up
to 0.6m deep, constituting a rare form of prehistoric rock carving called
cup marks. The cup marked slab now at this monument is a cast of the original,
which has been removed for safekeeping to the Royal Institution of Cornwall
Museum, Truro.
Immediately beyond the southern perimeter of the mound lies a large slab, 1.9m
long by 1.15m wide, considered to have been displaced from this entrance grave
during relatively recent disturbance.
Documentary sources indicate that the now-levelled north western sector of
this entrance grave was disturbed by road makers in the 1840's. In 1871, the
monument was partly excavated by the antiquary W C Borlase, who found abundant
ashes and bone fragments both above and below the fallen capstone near the
chamber entrance, together with a flint flake above the capstone. Under
another slab beneath the southern end of that capstone he records a small pit
lined with shell and sand, and filled with bone and ashes. Further excavations
in 1967-68 and in 1972 indicated that this entrance grave was built in two
phases: the mound was originally surrounded by a circular kerb which was later
reduced in size to the present more irregular plan that incorporates the
blocking in front of the chamber entrance. In the chamber floor these
excavations revealed more bone fragments and two pits - the one opened by
Borlase, and a second pit containing an intact funerary collared urn.
Artefactual debris from before the monument's construction was also recovered
from an old land surface beneath the mound.
The entrance grave is located in a slight saddle between low hills, in an area
containing a localised concentration of broadly contemporary funerary and
ritual monuments. Beyond this monument these include, from 125m to the
south east, cairns and small funerary cists - slab-built box-like structures
in which burials were deposited. Nearby prehistoric ritual monuments include a
stone circle called the Merry Maidens situated 225m to the ENE, within sight
of this entrance grave and formerly accompanied by a second stone circle even
closer to this monument. The Merry Maidens circle is associated with several
standing stones, one of which, the Goon Rith menhir, is 110m north west of
this monument. Prehistoric settlement evidence, in the form of a scatter of
flint artefacts, has also been recorded from 60m south east of this monument.
The English Heritage girder supporting the northern capstone, the roadside
post and the surface of the metalled road are excluded from the scheduling but
the ground beneath them is included.

MAP EXTRACT
The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract.
It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features,
considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.

Source: Historic England

Reasons for Scheduling

Entrance graves are funerary and ritual monuments dating to the later
Neolithic, Early and Middle Bronze Age (c.2500-1000 BC). They were constructed
with a roughly circular mound of heaped rubble and earth, up to 25m in
diameter, the perimeter of which may be defined by a kerb of edge-set slabs
or, occasionally, coursed stone. The mound contains a rectangular chamber
built of edge-set slabs or coursed rubble walling, or a combination of both.
The chamber was roofed by further slabs, called capstones, spanning the walls.
The chamber was accessible via a gap in the mound's kerb or outer edge and
often extends back beyond the centre of the mound. Excavations within entrance
graves have revealed cremated human bone and funerary urns, usually within the
chambers but on occasion within the mound. Unburnt human bone has been
recovered but is only rarely preserved. Some chambers have also produced
ritual deposits of domestic midden debris, including dark earth typical of the
surface soil found in settlements, animal bone and artefact fragments.
Entrance graves may occur as single monuments or in small or large groups,
often associated with other cairn types in cemeteries.
Entrance graves are one of several forms of chambered tombs found in western
Britain and adjacent areas to the south, including the Channel Islands and
Brittany. In England, entrance graves are confined to the extreme south west,
with 79 of the 93 recorded surviving examples located on the Isles of Scilly
and the remaining 14 located in Penwith peninsula at the western tip of
Cornwall.

This entrance grave near Tregiffian survives substantially intact despite the
levelling of part of its mound; even over the levelled area, the road makers'
disturbance will not have affected sub-surface remains similar to those
already demonstrated elsewhere beneath the mound. Excavations in the remainder
of the mound have been of limited extent, producing evidence to elucidate the
form and development of this monument while leaving most of the mound
undisturbed. As one of the few entrance graves on the mainland, its low-lying
situation between hills is unusual, as too are several details of its
construction. These include the re-modelled kerb with its blocking arrangement
beyond the chamber entrance and the large portal slabs constricting the
entrance itself. The cup marks on the eastern portal slab are a rare
expression of earlier prehistoric ritual carving, and are here located well
outside the national focus of their distribution. The presence of this
monument within a local concentration of broadly contemporary funerary and
ritual monuments demonstrates well the nature and organisation of religious
activities among prehistoric communities.

Source: Historic England

Sources

Books and journals
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982)
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982)
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982)
Barnatt, J, Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments, (1982)
Borlase, W C, Naenia Cornubiae, (1872)
ApSimon, A, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Excavation News, 1971-72; Tregiffian Barrow, St Buryan, (1972)
ApSimon, A, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Excavation News, 1971-72; Tregiffian Barrow, St Buryan, (1972), 56
Dudley, D, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Excavation News, 1967-1968; Tregiffian, St Buryan, (1968), 80
Dudley, D, 'Cornish Archaeology' in Excavation News, 1967-1968; Tregiffian, St Buryan, (1968)
Hartgroves, S, 'Cornish Archaeology' in The Cup-marked Stones of Stithians Reservoir, , Vol. 26, (1987), 69-84
Morris, R W B, 'Proc Preh Soc' in The Prehistoric Rock Art of Great Britain: a Survey etc, , Vol. 55, (1989), 45-88
Other
Bowman, A, MPP Monuments Class Description for 'Cup and Ring Marked Stone', (1990)
CAU, MPP Cornwall County evaluation list for cup-marked stones, (1993)
consulted 1994, CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 28194,
consulted 1994, CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 28221,
consulted 1994, CAU, Cornwall SMR entry for PRN 28242,
consulted 1994, DoE/HBMC, Ancient Monuments Terrier for CO 666; Tregiffian Burial Chamber, (1984)
consulted 1994, DoE/HBMC, Ancient Monuments Terrier for CO 666; Tregiffian Burial Chamber, (1984)
consulted 1994, Saunders, AD, AM7 for CO 666; Burial Chamber NW of Tregiffian, (1968)
consulted 1994, Saunders, AD, AM7 for CO 666; Burial Chamber NW of Tregiffian, (1968)
Entry No 28192, CAU, MPP Cornwall County evaluation list for Entrance Graves, (1993)
Entry No 28192.2, CAU, MPP Cornwall County evaluation list for cup-marked stones, (1993)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map: SW 42 SW
Source Date:
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:

Title: Guardianship Deed Plan accompanying AM Terrier for CO 666;
Source Date: 1984
Author:
Publisher:
Surveyor:
Drawn c1971; consulted 1994

Source: Historic England

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