Dun Roman!


The Cornish are different.

You probably gathered that if you've read other chunks of Spooky St. Ives.

However, this is not some modern affectation put on in an attempt to separate themselves from the general ruck of British peoples. The Cornish have always been different and the evidence for this is right beneath your nose (well, knees, mainly) at Chysauster.

Chysauster, or the bit that's left of it, was built during the Roman occupation (Emmetus Latinus!), although earlier Iron Age pottery finds might suggest even earlier activity on the site. However, you can forget villas, temples, straight roads, etc. because they were definitely doing their 'own thang' down here.

One of the main features of the site is the construction of the houses which are compartmented in a style unique to west Cornwall. These type of 'courtyard houses' are only found in the Land's End peninsula and the Scilly Isles.

Chysauster also features a fogou (generally pronounced 'fu-gu'). These are peculiar underground structures, sort of man-made tunnels/caves. They are unique to Cornwall and not even very common down here.

They are also shrouded in mystery as no one really knows what they were for. They are normally found on the edge of settlements and suggestions have included food storage, shelters or sites of some sort of religious activity. I seem to remember the Channel 4 Time Team did a fogou in one of their earlier episodes and had to hold up their hands at the end of the show and admit they couldn't come up with a sound explanation for them. I suppose you could say they didn't have the fogouiest!

Unfortunately, the Chysauster fogou is collapsed and has yet to be excavated but there are other fogous you can explore elsewhere (e.g. Carn Euny).

Watch where you're putting your feet.

At all times! This is an important historical site, you know.

Fogou at Chysauster 1
Information abounds on the site if you can just read the signs right. Fogou at Chysauster 2

That's it.

Well, to be precise, that's the outside of it. You can't see the inside of it. I suppose that's the inevitable drawback with being underground.

Fogou at Chysauster 3

The bulk of the pottery finds at Chysauster date to the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. There is a clear field system around the village site but there have not been any archaeological finds which would shed light on what else the locals got up to. It is assumed that some form of trade, most likely of tin, would have gone on with the Romans (who mainly stayed east of the Tamar) but beyond that, and routine domestic activities typical of the period, nothing can be said with any certainty.

The village appears to have been abandoned peaceably around the time the Roman occupation ended. There is no evidence of any destruction at this time and the site does not appear to have ever been reoccupied hence its good state of preservation.

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