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Archaeologists Hope To Uncover Secrets At Tintagel

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2:44pm 14th July 2016

Cornish archaeologists are hoping to unearth the secrets of Tintagel Castle .

A team from Cornwall Archaeological Unit (CAU), part of Cornwall Council, will be carrying out a new project over the summer to find out more about the historic site.

English Heritage has commissioned CAU to carry out the onsite excavations as part of the first major research project to take place at Tintagel for nearly twenty years. The programme is expected to take up to five years to complete.

The first phase of excavations, which will take place between 18th July and 2nd August, includes digging trenches in two previously unexcavated terrace areas of the island settlement.  It is hoped research into these carefully chosen areas will reveal more about how the people of Tintagel lived in the Post-Roman period from 5th to 6th centuries AD.

The terraces include buildings believed to date from this time.  Geophysical surveys of the terraces earlier in the year have detected the walls and layers of these buried buildings, and have suggested variation in their size. The team hope the excavations will provide evidence for how and when the buildings were built, as well as what they may have been used for.

Tintagel is one of Europe's most important archaeological sites. Previous excavations have uncovered thousands of pieces of pottery at Tintagel - with the vast majority dating from the 5th to 7th centuries and imported from the Mediterranean. The upcoming excavations may well add to this impressive collection, as the team of archaeologists will keep their trowels poised for pieces of pottery, stonework, and fragments of glass.

The project will use cutting edge scientific techniques to delve deeper into Tintagel's past. Once the trenches are dug, samples of soil, ceramics, glass, iron, bone and molluscs will be collected and sent for analysis, and tiny samples of carbon will be used for accurate radiocarbon dating.

"This is the most significant archaeological project at Tintagel since the 1990s" explains English Heritage's Properties Curator for the West, Win Scutt. "The three week dig this summer is the first step in a five year research programme to answer some key questions about Tintagel and Cornwall's past.

"We'll be testing the dig sites to plan more advanced excavations next year, getting a much clearer picture of the footprint of early medieval buildings on the island, and gathering samples for analysis. It's when these samples are studied in the laboratory that the fun really starts, and we'll begin to unearth Tintagel's secrets."

A team of archaeological scientists from around the UK have been enlisted to work on the project. The excavation team, directed by Jacky Nowakowski, Principal Archaeologist at Cornwall Archaeology Unit, will be working with specialists from Historic England, geophysicists from TigerGeo Ltd., and a handful of experts on this period in Britain. A small group of experienced volunteers have also been selected to join the professional team. 

News that a team from Cornwall Archaeological Unit has been chosen to lead the excavations has been welcomed by Joyce Duffin, Cornwall Council's Cabinet Member for the Environment, who says it demonstrates the excellence of the work being done in the unit.

"I am very proud that the CAU will be playing a leading role in this hugely important project" says Joyce Duffin.  "English Heritage have put together a team of experts and it is very exciting that archaeologists from the Council's CAU will be involved in helping to unearth the secrets of one of the country's most important sites".

Jacky Nowakowski ,of CAU, says "CAU are very excited to be involved in English Heritage's research project at Tintagel. This new archaeological research project will investigate unexplored areas of the Island in order to find out more about the character of the buildings on this significant post-Roman settlement at Tintagel.

"It is a great opportunity to shed new light on a familiar yet infinitely complex site where there is still much to learn and to contribute to active research of a major site of international significance in Cornwall. Excavations will run both this summer and next, giving visitors the chance to see and hear at first hand new discoveries being made and share in the excitement of the excavations."

2:44pm 14th July 2016

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