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Tintagel Palace

8 August 2016

Two takes on the same discovery. The newspaper likes the Arthurian angle and dallies a bit – www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/king-arthur-castle-cornwa… … and www.medievalhistories.com/luxury-tintagel-early-medieval-period/ … the excavations in July came across buildings, it is thought, dating to the 5th century AD (or roughly contemporary when Gildas when writing his missive, The Ruin of Britain). Geophysical surveys had already established some interesting buildings under the ground.  They appear to vary in size and presumably belong to different periods of time – but closely connected in time (successional). Excavations revealed some interesting material deposits, including pottery dating from the Late Roman period to the 7th century. Some of the artifacts are the product of trade with the Mediterranean world. One such is a glass flagon identical to examples found at Cadiz and Malaga in Spain. This reinforces the idea that a trade route still existed in the post Roman period, along the Atlantic coast (Brittany, Iberia, North Africa, Byzantium etc. Exports of tin from Cornwall would have played an important part in the trade – as well as lead and other metals. Imports would have included wine and olive oil.

The July excavations uncovered thick masonry walls and flagstone floors – and what appears to be feasting halls. This is interesting as in the east of the country the Anglo Saxons were building feasting halls too (made of oak timbers). Why did the Celtic west of Britain busy themselves building stone versions of wooden feasting halls? In the west, Cornwall  and Wales, for example, maintained trade with Celtic regions (such as Brittany and parts of Spain, while in the east of the country the A/S main trade was with the near continent (Frankish Gaul and Germania).

The Mediterranean link seems to suggest the old ties between Cornwall and Brittany still existed after the departure of the Romans and that following Justinian's attempt to re-establsih the united Roman empire, trade with diverse parts of the Mediterranean world was reactivated. Mary Duggan places the trading network between AD475 and 550 (possibly continuing for a while after that and finally closed by the Arab invasions). The newspaper story focusses more on King Arthur and Geoffrey of Monmouth. Tintagel played a role in an illicit union between Uther Pendragon and the wife of a local ruler, we are told. The offspring produced was none other than Arthur, an artful device to disguise his divine nature. The story is derived from myth and folktale – but the excavations have placed the story in a geographical context, at Tintagel.

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