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'Crystal causeway' on moor is 4,000 years old

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 23, 2013

By Simon Parker, Living Cornwall Editor

  • Dig director James Gossip, right, leads volunteers in the excavation at the Hurlers. Below: A flint tool unearthed at the weekend PICTURES: EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS

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HUNDREDS of people flocked to an ancient monument on Bodmin Moor at the weekend as archaeologists revealed what they describe as a unique stone pathway.

The 4,000-year-old feature has been uncovered for the first time in 75 years.

A team from Cornwall Council's Historic Environment department has spent the past week at the Hurlers stone circles near Minions carefully uncovering a monument thought to be the only one of its kind in the British Isles. Known variously as a stone pavement or crystal causeway, experts are now certain the 4ft-wide pathway linking two circles is an integral part of the site's ceremonial architecture.

It was first excavated in 1938 by the Ministry of Works under the direction of Charles Kenneth Croft Andrew and C A Ralegh Radford, when it was described as a processional pathway.

Current dig director James Gossip said several tangible clues to the Bronze Age people who built it had been unearthed, including two flint tools.

The wider significance and exact date of the enigmatic structure will only be known after tests are carried out on samples of material from beneath it by geomorphologists and archaeological scientists from Bristol University.

"What they'll be looking for is evidence of burnt material, such as seeds, sealed beneath the pavement," said James. "This will be radiocarbon dated to give a pretty accurate time for its construction and help to verify our assumption that this is a 4,000-year-old structure contemporary with the circles."

The dig is part of a wider Heritage Lottery-funded project called Mapping The Sun, organised by the Caradon Hill Area Heritage Project, which has also included astronomy workshops led by Brian Sheen from the Roseland Observatory, a sunrise equinox walk, a geophysical survey, a display of Bronze Age artefacts and an exhibition of archive photographs.

Lead archaeologist Jacky Nowakowski said she had been delighted by the level of community support. "We've all been overwhelmed by the interest shown locally," she said. "Our project will help to inform the community about the great value of this unique monument.

"We've already found two prehistoric flint tools in among the stones and this has given us a great deal of confidence about how well preserved it is and also the fact that it's related to the two circles on either side."

The project's findings are due to be published in a report by the end of the year.

Anyone who would like to see the pathway before it is reburied will need to be quick – it's due to be covered over again tomorrow.

For more information visit caradonhill.org.uk

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