Iron Age mysteries

Fogous are all associated with habitation: usually a round or small farmstead surrounded by a bank, or a group of courtyard houses. Their purpose is unclear. The more credible suggestions include:

  • Places of refuge. They are always close to habitation, often close to boundaries. The entrances are low and usually involve ducking and/or squeezing through a gap which would make the entrances easily defensible. They usually have a side creep passage which might be used as an emergency exit. But they would be a death trap for any long siege
  • Store houses. They are cool and underground which might be a good place to store foodstuffs, easily defended from raiders. The entrances mostly face south west – the prevailing wind – and the creep passages allow air to circulate. But they would be too damp to store grain
  • Ritual spaces. They might represent an entry into the underworld or into the womb of mother earth. Neighbouring Neolithic chambered tombs show the same characteristics. Their entrances generally face south west – midwinter sunset – and their northern ends towards north east – the midsummer sunrise. But no evidence of ritual use or bones have been found inside them

Whatever their purpose, they are wonderful places to visit.

Recommended reading:

  • Belerion – Ancient Sites of Land’s End by Craig Weatherhill published by Alison Hodge ISBN 0 906720 01 – the archaeologist’s view
  • Cornovia – Ancient sites of Cornwall and Scilly by Craig Weatherhill published by Alison Hodge – the archaeologist’s view
  • Journey to the Stones – Nine walks to ancient sites in the Land’s End peninsula, Cornwall by Ian Cooke published by the Men-an-Tol Studios ISBN 0 9512371 – a more spiritual view of fogous
  • Mothers and Suns also by Ian Cooke but now out of print