Simon Parker looks at a project which hopes to shed light on the lives of our ancestors.
Archaeologists hoping to discover how prehistoric man constructed an intriguing stone monument in Cornwall will this weekend reveal the preliminary findings of an extensive excavation.
Known locally as the giant's quoit, 5000-year-old Carwynnen Quoit will be accessible to the public on Sunday for a series of talks, walks and workshops aimed at improving understanding of the way our ancestors lived.
Situated on gently sloping farmland at Troon, near Camborne, the Neolithic cromlech – similar to the quoits of Lanyon, Chun and Trethevy – has collapsed at least twice over the years, most recently in 1966, when it was toppled by an earth tremor.
It is hoped it can be fully re-erected next year.
Owned and managed by the Sustainable Trust, the site of the granite monument is being excavated to establish how ancient man was able to lift and manipulate stones weighing up to ten tons. The dig is being undertaken by volunteers from Cornwall Archaeological Society and Truro College and overseen by Cornwall Council's historic environment department. It is due to be completed by October 3.
A preliminary dig in July yielded Neolithic pottery shards, flints and a musket ball, along with pieces of "clinkers" – the residue of ash from a fire.
Sustainable Trust director Pip Richards said: "The project is very much hands-on. It is providing useful training and giving people a grounding in basic excavation and recording skills.
"Our restoration method will be defined by the findings of this dig and we are now fundraising for the final phase of the project, which we anticipate will take place in a year or 18 months.
"English Heritage will need to be satisfied that the monument will stand for 100 years before permission to proceed is granted.
"Meanwhile we are having great fun with this phase, organising a week-long project with Troon Primary School and hearing from people with memories of the site and its folklore."
Cornwall Heritage Trust is producing an education pack on Carwynnen Quoit and other prehistoric sites nearby, while previously unseen images of the monument have been brought in by local people, including a number of photographs from 1948 when the Gorsedd was held at Carwynnen.
Members of the public are invited to visit the site for an open day on Sunday, September 30 ,between 10am and 4pm, when there will be hourly tours and an exhibition.
As part of the Heritage Lottery-funded project, the open day will include a digital photography course and the launch of the Giant's Quoit Writing Project.
"This is one of the most interesting Neolithic sites in the area and we are privileged to be able to excavate underneath the cromlech, which has remained covered since 1966," said Ms Richards. "The trust has been delighted with the response from the public and we look forward to seeing more of them at the open day."