The prominent grass-covered ruins at Carn Euny date from the last phases of the settlement. Beneath them, archaeologists have discovered the remains of an earlier Iron Age village.
The first traces of settlement on the site date from the 5th century BC.
For some 500 years, the village was formed of relatively simple Iron Age 'round houses'. These have now completely disappeared - with only the circular drainage gullies and postholes surviving, to be excavated by archaeologists in the 1960s.
As part of this early settlement, a remarkable underground stone chamber with an entrance passage was built. This distinct type of monument, found only in the far west of Cornwall, is known as a 'fogou', deriving from the Cornish word 'ogo' meaning cave.
What is a Fogou?
The original function of the fogou is unclear.
It may have been used as a place of refuge, or perhaps as a cellar for cold storage. Alternatively the presence of certain features, such as the niche at the back of the chamber, point to some kind of ritual significance.
The fogou was discovered in the 1840s by miners prospecting for tin. It was excavated in the 1860s by the Cornish antiquary W C Borlase (1848-99).
Christie, P M L 1993. 'Chysauster and Carn Euny, Cornwall', London: English Heritage
Cooke, I 1991. 'Guide to Carn Euny Iron Age Village and Fogou and Other Nearby Ancient Sites', Penzance: Men-an-Tol
The text and pictures on this page are derived from the 'Heritage Unlocked' series of guidebooks published in 2004. We intend to review, update and enhance the content in the near future as part of the Portico project, whose objective is to provide information on the history, significance, research background and sources for all English Heritage properties.