Last updated: 11/04/2012
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Historic Environment Projects: Publications and
Roman Cornwall emerges from the shadows
A book detailing excavations which
took place at Trethurgy, St. Austell, in the 1970's has
published. Titled 'Trethurgy - Excavations at
Trethurgy Round, St Austell: Community and Status in Roman and
Post-Roman Cornwall', the book investigates one of the
most important archaeological investigations in recent years.
The publication, by Henrietta Quinnell, will mark a milestone in
Cornish archaeology. Excavations at the site revealed that contrary
to popular belief the inhabitants of Cornwall chose to reject many
Roman practices and to develop their own distinctive style of life.
For the first time in Cornwall, the distinctive character of life
in a 'round' with a prosperous community living in large oval
houses supported by a network of crafts and trade, was revealed.
Rounds - enclosed settlements of the late prehistoric and Roman
periods - are known to be found in Cornwall, however, none had ever
been extensively excavated.
1972 local archaeologist Peter Sheppard, involved in extensive
fieldwork in the St Austell area, located a new 'round' at
Trethurgy in an area soon to be destroyed by the extension of china
clay working. Trial excavations confirmed that Trethurgy was
well preserved and could be successfully excavated. The
Department of the Environment, now English Heritage, agreed to fund
the project with practical support from the Cornwall Archaeological
Society and English China Clays, now Imerys. The work was
carried out over several months with a large team numbering up to
70 at its peak - one of the biggest excavation projects ever
undertaken in Cornwall.
The results revolutionised ideas about
Roman Cornwall best demonstrated by a distinctive style of oval
stone architecture superbly adapted to the local environment.
(Previously it had been thought that the lack of villas was
indicative of impoverished living conditions). Communities living
in these houses were largely self-sufficient farmers, utilising
local metal resources, but with contacts and trading networks
stretching into much of Britain and Europe.
Pottery was supplemented by a range of vessels beautifully
crafted from local stone. A system of barter and exchange with
local crafts and produce provided stability for a lifestyle which
continued into the 6th century AD. This was totally unexpected,
demonstrating that the problems which beset the British Isles
nationally had had little immediate effect on the settled
communities in Cornwall. The results from Trethurgy have been
confirmed by subsequent work on other rounds but none has produced
such a full picture and the excavation has become a classic.
Historic Environmental Publications -
Trethurgy is the result of the collaboration of a range of
experts under the principal authorship of the excavator Henrietta
Quinnell. Its publication has been possible through the practical
support of the Cornwall Council's Historic Environment Service,
financed by a grant from English Heritage.
Nicholas Johnson, former County
Archaeologist with Cornwall Council's Historic Environment
Service said, 'I am delighted that we have been able to assist with
this landmark report. It takes a great deal of effort and
collaboration to bring a project of this importance to completion.
We owe a big debt to the design team of Cornwall Council who have
ensured that the publication which is now available for sale is so
well produced and attractive. We are certain it will attract a wide
readership amongst all those with an interest in Cornwall's
The author added "The results of the
Trethurgy excavation proved a revelation for Cornish Archaeology. I
am privileged to have been involved with such an important project
and one which will have such an impact on our understanding of the