Children exploring the fogou at Carn Euny with phosphorescent moss

SPOTLIGHT ON CARN EUNY ANCIENT VILLAGE

Cornish Translation: HENDRA CHAPELUNI

People have lived at Carn Euny since the Iron Age. The first settlement of wooden houses was built on the site around 400 BC. They were later replaced by stone 'courtyard houses', the remains of which are still visible today. These were the homes of the community who lived in the village during the Romano-British period.

At the heart of the settlement is its most intriguing feature - a stone-walled underground passage known as a fogou. This mysterious type of Iron Age monument is found only in the west of Cornwall.

English Heritage is grateful to the Cornwall Heritage Trust for support in the care and maintenance of Carn Euny Ancient Village.

Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian, English Heritage

WHY WE LOVE CARN EUNY

"Carn Euny is one of those secret places that's reserved for those who make the effort to discover it. I'd recommend walking in the local area - there are lots of other historic places such as Caer Bran hillfort and St. Euny's chapel and wells to explore." - Susan Greaney, Senior Properties Historian, English Heritage

"For me Carn Euny is above all a 'mystical' site in a unique Celtic landscape. It is this sense of place that makes it so special and memorable. Even more so when you consider it has been continuously habited for over 3,500 years - all quite amazing.

"The fogou in the centre of the site is wonderful and is made all the more intriguing because no-one really knows what is was for." - Mike Hawkey, Cornwall Heritage Trust

Plan your visit
Carn Euny Ancient Village

Take a closer look

We can learn a lot about the people who lived at Carn Euny by looking closely at the remains of their homes.

The houses in the village were built surrounding a large central courtyard which may have been used for outdoor activities such as grinding grain, weaving and cooking. The courtyard contained small round and long rooms constructed against the outer wall which provided different functions - for cooking and eating, sleeping and possibly providing shelter for their sheep and cows.

Take a look at the walls of the different houses. Notice how they are interlocking; this helped to provided security and shelter for the inhabitants.

Discover Carn Euny's history
kids at Carn Euny

What makes Carn Euny Special?

Carn Euny is one of the best preserved prehistoric settlements in southwest Britain. It was continuously occupied from the late Iron Age until the end of the Romano-British period.

When part of the village was excavated in the 1960s, an exciting discovery was made. Underneath the stone buildings, the archaeologists found traces of a much earlier house, dating from the Iron Age.

No trace of this earlier house can be seen today. Only part of the circular drainage gully and several postholes survived, suggesting a house of about seven metres diameter. The walls were built of turf or wattle and daub, with timber posts supporting a thatched roof.

The discovery of this house suggests that there was a settlement here in the middle Iron Age, which was occupied from about 400 BC. Occupation continued right the way through until the end of the Romano-British period, in about AD 400.

Understanding the layout of Carn Euny

Plan of Carn Euny Carn Euny from above
Phosphorescent moss (top) and the fogou at Carn Euny Ancient Village (below)

3 THINGS TO LOOK OUT FOR

  • Moss that glows - In the round chamber and passage of the fogou you might be able to spot a phosphorescent moss that glows with a luminous green,colour, catching the light.
     
  • The ruined cottage - On the western side of the site you will find the ruins of a small two-storey cottage - it's pictured above. It was built in about 1750 and pottery evidence tells us it was occupied for about 50 years. There would have been two rooms downstairs with a ladder or stair leading to other loft rooms under a thatched roof.
     
  • An unusual fogou - this is a type of underground structure found only in Cornwall, deriving from the Cornish word for 'cave'. The fogou at Carn Euny was discovered in the 1840s by miners prospecting for tin and was first excavated in the 1860s by the Cornish antiquary William Copeland Borlase (1848-99). It's particularly unusual as it includes a large circular domed chamber with a corbelled roof. It was extended several times during the life of the settlement, but its purpose remains unknown. It may have been a place of refuge, or perhaps a cellar for storing food. Alternatively, it could have been used for ritual or ceremonial purposes.

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Ballowall Barrow near St Just

Did you know?

We look after over 400 historic places, and remarkably, 250 of those are free to visit. Many of these free sites can be found in Cornwall including Carn Euny Ancient Village, Tregiffian Burial Chamber, Halliggye FogouBallowall Barrow and many more.

As a charity, English Heritage relies on your support. We couldn’t keep our free sites open and protected without the help from our members and visitors to paid-for sites.

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