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HomeHistorical BooksThe Mysterious Man-made Caves Built by Iron Age Cornish Settlers

The Mysterious Man-made Caves Built by Iron Age Cornish Settlers

Fogous, a time period derived from the Cornish phrase for cave, ‘ogo’, are a puzzling characteristic of the panorama for vacationers, historians, and archaeologists alike. There are 9 identified artifical cave techniques within the county of Cornwall, all relationship again to Iron Age settlers. Other native phrases for these peculiar caves are fuggy holes or vugs.

Unlike the Neolithic and Bronze Age stone circles, barrows, enclosures, and settlements, Fogous seem to serve no objective in any way, regardless of the large quantity of care and energy that may have gone into their development.

Analysis of essentially the most intact fogous discovered, revealed that the method of constructing these tunnels and caves started with the excavation of deep trenches sited close to to a settlement, which have been then lined with rock slabs or dry-stone partitions, capped with extra lintel stones after which coated fully with soil, rubble and turf.

Likened to the souterrains present in Scotland, Ireland, Brittany, and Normandy, these underground caverns and tunnels, created fully by prehistoric man, are solely discovered within the county of Cornwall and nowhere else in England. It virtually reinforces the notion that true Cornish folks have extra in frequent with the inhabitants of North-West France than their English cousins.

One of essentially the most intact and well-preserved fogous is discovered on the Lizard Peninsula, near the Trelowarren Estate. The Halliggye Fogous is properly off the vacationer trails. Despite there being some elements of the construction seen above floor betraying its location in the course of the Iron Age, the doorway wouldn’t be simply discovered.

Similar modern steps are now present at Halliggye

Similar fashionable steps at the moment are current at Halliggye

Access begins by stepping down fashionable stairs right into a slender trench, lined with sheer stone-faced partitions. As you descend, the passageway narrows considerably and the temperature drops by a substantial quantity. The complicated follows a roughly upside-down ‘t’ form, with one tunnel branching off the doorway passage.

The straight tunnel is massive sufficient to comfortably transfer about in. It runs for 8.4 metres all the way down to a crawlspace of one other 4 metres on the finish. At the beginning of the crawl area, you might be greeted by a powerful doorway comprising two vast gate stones capped with one other large rectangular boulder. To the left of this gateway, is a second tunnel that branches off in an enormous curve and spans greater than 27 metres. Deep on this eerie and inaccessible area, is a second crawlspace that juts off to the left and is preceded by a stone lip embedded into the ground to journey unsuspecting guests.

Burial Cairn at Capel Garmon, later used as a stable in the 19th Century

Burial Cairn at Capel Garmon, later used as a secure within the nineteenth Century

Over the years, there have been a lot of excavations, research, analyses, and theories as to the potential objective for constructing these underground constructions. That does imply, after all, that nobody could be sure of the unique contents discovered within the tunnels. Ancient settlers have been resourceful and renown for reusing constructing supplies over the centuries, eradicating archaeological stays and artefacts from the Neolithic occasions onward. One burial cairn in Capel Garmon, close to Snowdonia, had all Bronze Age stays eliminated in order that it may very well be used as a secure within the nineteenth century. Stones from some deserted Cornish roundhouses have been additionally moved to strengthen animal enclosures or defences.

The absence of archaeological artefacts has made it notably tough to find out the use for the caves. The Reverend Richard Polwhele, recorded his findings on coming into the Halliggye Fogou in 1803. He maintained that the tunnels contained urns but when they have been current throughout his excavations, they aren’t there now, neither is there any document of them being saved elsewhere.

Later evaluation of the tunnel detritus revealed no proof of cremation ashes or bone, no midden waste, pottery sherds, steel deposits, or grains, which solely tells us that if the tunnels have been as soon as used as a chilly storage place, they have been subsequently cleaned to a excessive diploma.

Another frequent speculation for his or her objective is as a hiding place for the settlers from the specter of assault. Since the tunnels are generally chilly and damp, with cramped and insupportable circumstances inside, that could be a tough assumption to swallow. If they have been to go to all the difficulty of constructing an Iron Age panic room, why would they make them so inaccessible and ugly? For these with little data of the county of Cornwall, pure caves are plentiful inside the craggy cliffs of the shoreline, but there are fogous shut sufficient to the coastal caves to render constructing them redundant.

The indisputable fact that a few of the fogou entrances have been seen from the floor moderately than being wholly hidden, would make the concept that they might have been used as secret hoard tunnels for treasured items and metals much less seemingly.

When the obvious causes are rendered unbelievable, it leaves archaeologists with their normal cover-all principle; that the tunnels have been constructed for ceremonial use. Since there aren’t any data, nor concrete proof to help spiritual practices in Britain from earlier than the Roman occupation, we are able to solely hazard an informed guess primarily based on the objects discovered and the prevalence of cultural folklore and mythology handed by means of the ages by way of the spoken phrase.

A senior archaeologist for Historic Environment Scotland, Richard Strachan, who manages the souterrains below the Scottish group’s purview, means that the fogous might have had many makes use of through the years. “I think they’re multipurpose, maybe seasonal as well,” Strachan states. “Maybe you use them for storage, then when you don’t need them for storage, you use them for ceremony.”

The principle is strengthened by the newer excavations at Boden, the place an S-shaped fogou was uncovered alongside a whole Bronze Age settlement. Analysis dated the development of the spherical homes, and pot sherds discovered inside, to round 1400BCE. Similar research found that the settlement was deserted some 300 years later, but the S-shaped tunnels have been created lengthy after, round 400BCE. The new builders took nice care to wind the fogous across the deserted huts, leaving them intact.

If their intention was to create a chilly retailer, why select a website that already had neighborhood buildings current? Why, in spite of everything the hassle of setting up a posh tunnel system that prevented the demolition of these huts, would they go away them uninhabited? It appears probably {that a} ritualistic or spiritual purpose prevented them from desecrating the location, particularly since proof means that the tunnels have been additionally closed some 500 years later in an equally exact manner.

James Gossip, archaeologist and British prehistory skilled, and his crew of volunteers, studied the fogou at Boden each summer season since 2003. Their findings revealed that early Iron Age pottery was positioned on the ground, carved out from the bedrock, the capstones eliminated and the tunnels intentionally back-filled with rock and soil from the encompassing space. This ‘closing’ of the tunnels can be seen at souterrains elsewhere.

Perhaps we’ll by no means know for certain why these darkish, slender passages have been constructed, or whether or not the ceremonial utilization is appropriate, however we are able to and do know a lot about human nature. If we go to the difficulty of constructing a purposeful area, we endeavour to make it match for objective. None of the tunnels are simple to entry, some have extremely acidic soils making meals storage tough and there’s no proof of them getting used for funerary practices.

Could or not it’s that they have been a part of some form of endurance take a look at? The crawl areas would have been extraordinarily uncomfortable, pitch darkish, damp and chilly, briefly, they’d most likely be finest prevented by the common particular person.

We might by no means know for certain why these caves and passages have been created and hidden beneath tonnes of turf and topsoil, however they do add to the thriller of Cornwall as a complete and make for a superb time out for guests to the area.

All I do know is that I’m manner too cowardly to enterprise inside one, not as a result of I feel they might be infested with Cornish Piskies or {that a} gateway would possibly open, unleashing evil spirits to tug me into the Underworld, however as a result of my claustrophobia and bronchial asthma would possibly get the higher of me. One factor is for certain; Iron Age folks have been far more durable than I’ll ever be.

My sincerely gratitude goes to the courageous individuals who did squeeze themselves into the tunnels and returned to explain their experiences in order that I might stay a coward.

Amanda Ruggeri, BBC Great Britain (June 2016)

E.V. Clark et al – The Fogou of Lower Boscaswell, Cornwall.

Dave Hamilton – Wild Ruins BC

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