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Page last updated at 14:22 GMT, Wednesday, 9 February 2011
Ancient Britons
The impressive Iron-Age inspired roundhouse being built at Saveock Mill near Chacewater by Jacqui Woods and friends
The impressive Iron-Age inspired roundhouse being built at Saveock Mill near Chacewater

BBC Two begins a new series highlighting the role played by some of our earliest ancestors.

A History of Ancient Britain will focus on the periods of history before the arrival of the Romans.

Here in Cornwall, the landscape still bears the character of communities from the distant past be they standing stones, hillforts or burial mounds.

BBC Radio Cornwall takes a tour of some of these ancient sites.

To coincide with the launch of the series, BBC Radio Cornwall's James Churchfield broadcast his programme at the archaeological school, Saveock Farm at Greenbottom near Chacewater. Jacqui Wood, an international authority on pre-Roman history joining him.

Another particular area that dominates many archaeologists thoughts is the Isles of Scilly.

The isles were once labelled "the Islands of the Dead" because of the sheer numbers of burial sites on the Isles.


Some experts disagree with that title and it's still being investigated today.

Katherine Sawyer is a freelance archaeologist based on Scilly, who also leads guided walks around the Isles.

BBC Radio Cornwall's reporter Matt Pengelly met up with her at the Isles of Scilly Museum on St Mary's.

"My particular interests are the Bronze Age burial chambers of which there are two main areas of interest, one is the huge number of them, I mean probably the best part of a 100 entrance graves in Scilly which is a greater concentration than anywhere in western Europe.

"The other is the interesting range of material that's found in them, although many of them were excavated some time ago and not to a particularly high standard, there's a huge number of different urns with different types of decoration and also other items, small pieces of bronze, flint tools, beads of different types.

"Some of these items are no doubt of local origin, all the pottery seems to be made of Scillionian clay, but items like the beads and the bronze artefacts have almost certainly been brought into the Islands, so that shows contact with Scilly and other parts of the country."

BBC Radio Cornwall's James Churchfield visited the another important historical site, Castle an Dinas near St Columb with Tony Blackman from the Cornwall Heritage Trust.

The history of the Celtic fort is believed to stretch back to the second or third century BC.

The first time Castle an Dinas was noted in the history books was back in 1478.

Castle an Dinas

William of Worcester wrote that the fort was the place where Cador, Duke of Cornwall and husband of King Arthur's mother, met his untimely death.

The fort also played an important role a couple of centuries later. During the English Civil War, Sir Ralph Hopton's Royalist troops camped for two nights within the fort.

It was here they decided to surrender to the Parliamentarians. Hopton did vote against the decision, but he surrendered at Tresillian Bridge near Truro just a few days later.

Some 20 years later a man called John Trehenban murdered two young girls. He was sentenced to imprisonment in a cage on Castle an Dinas and starved to death.

There is also a spooky element to the make up of Castle an Dinas. At the end of the 18th century historian Samuel Drew wrote about a 'ghost army' apparently seen in the sky above the fort.

More recently Castle an Dinas was home to Cornwall's largest wolfram mine. Today some of the old buildings remain on the fort.

The site is managed and cared for by the Cornwall Heritage Trust for English Heritage.

The Celtic fort is open to the public, with parking and picnic areas available.

The BBC Two series Ancient Briton starts on Wednesday 9 February 21:00.

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