tor enclosures


at roughtor a well preserved stone-built tor enclosure incorporates the natural outcrops of roughtor and little roughtor. its stony banks are shown as solid black lines in this plan to the right. it was surveyed on the ground by english heritage in the 1990s. the site plan shows two complex entrances on the northwest and south sides and a third possible entrance in the north. two groups of hut platforms lie just inside the entrances and probably belong to a later phase of occupation. several cairns are built around the perimeter; two large ones crowning the summits of each of the tors and five others incorporated into the two main entrances.

a continual recurring theme of neolithic landscapes, in its emergence from the previous periods based on nomadic hunter gatherer substance societies, is the way in which important features of the landscape are incorporated into moments, tor enclosures a typology particular to the south west are a supreme example of this where prominent tor and associated stones are connected with stone walls and evidence of associated ditches.


neolithic causewayed camps do not appear to have contained permanent settlements, nor are many of them defensive sites. excavation has shown that they were the scene of feasting and ceremonies probably involving large numbers of people. at some, large quantities of human bones have been found leading to the suggestion that these enclosures were neolithic cemeteries in which bodies were left out in the open for the birds to pick clean – a ritual known as excarnation. at a later date the bones were buried amid a formal ceremony.  tor enclosures too were most probably used as the site for ceremonies and rituals, although we do not know precisely what form these might have taken. the construction of these enclosures must have demanded considerable man-power and organisation. they are a communal endeavour on the part of what was a highly dispersed society.


trencrom tor enclosure, west penwith. many neolithic flint tools were found at trencrom in the early twentieth century indicating that the iron age hillfort was built on the site of an earlier neolithic tor enclosure. a wall of large orthostats links natural outcrops of rock and encloses an area of around 1ha. the wall construction is similar to that of carn brea. group ii and v axe heads have been found nearby (mercer 1997, 57). there are hut circles within the enclosure and the gateways are elaborated, both of these features are likely to be later prehistoric structures (oswald et al. 2001, 159).