Three seasons of archaeological fieldwork were carried out in 1998–2000 by Cornwall Archaeological Un within the Imerys Stannon China Clay Works, Bodmin Moor. The first two seasons involved the excavation of an Early Bronze Age cairn group and Middle Bronze Age and Middle Iron Age settlement activity. The third season on the Northern Downs involved the evaluation a number of cairns, field systems, and palaeoenvironmental sites.
The cairn group consisted of three earlier Bronze Age ring-cairns and two ‘tailed’ cairns. One ring-cairn continued to be used as a ceremonial monument in the Middle Bronze Age and was reused during the Iron Age as a dwelling. An artefact assemblage including Bronze and Iron Age pottery and stonework was recovered. Two prehistoric beads one of faience, the other of amber, were also found.
Ten Bronze Age radiocarbon determinations spanning 2490–1120 cal BC and two Iron Age determinations (370–40 cal BC) were obtained from three of the cairns. Two pollen columns on the Northern Downs were also dated. Significantly, a series of eight determinations was obtained from a single column, which provided environmental information from the Mesolithic through to the early medieval period. The radiocarbon dating showed that impact on the vegetation of the Down commenced during the Neolithic, with larger-scale clearance during the Bronze Age. Widespread open grassland was established by the Middle Bronze Age.
It is suggested here that use of space within the cairn group was structured and that the cairns formed a monument complex which was part of a wider landscape cosmology, involving groupings of particular monument types and the referencing of rocky outcrops and tors.
The investigations on Stannon Down were important as an opportunity to study an Early Bronze Age ceremonial landscape and reconsider how later Middle Bronze Age and Iron Age peoples on Bodmin Moor might have engaged with and interpreted the materiality of earlier prehistoric monuments.