Tintagel (G-B) : Royal palace discovered in area believed to be birthplace of King Arthur
The new 'Gallos' sculpture of King Arthur at Tintagel Castle in Tintagel, Cornwall. CREDIT:GETTY IMAGES/GETTY IMAGES
A royal palace has been discovered in the area reputed to be the birthplace of King Arthur.
The palace discovered at Tintagel in Cornwall is believed to date from the sixth century - around the time that the legendary king may have lived.
Tintagel Castle archeology dig. CREDIT: EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS/EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS
They believe the one-metre thick walls being unearthed are from a 6th century palace belonging to the rulers of the ancient south-west British kingdom of Dumnonia.
Excavations have been taking place at the site as part of a five-year research project being run by English Heritage at the 13th century Tintagel Castle in Cornwall to find out more about the historic site from the fifth to the seventh centuries.
Using cutting edge techniques, Cornwall Archaeological Unit (CAU), part of Cornwall council, uncovered the walls of the palace and more than 150 fragments of pottery and glass which had been imported to the site from exotic locations across the globe indicating it was inhabited by wealthy individuals.
Finds include sherds of imported late-Roman amphorae, fragments of fine glass, and the rim of a Phocaean red-slip ware which is the first piece of fine tableware found on the site.
Ryan Smith (trench supervisor) holding a Phocaean red slip water from Western Turkey. CREDIT: EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS/EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS
Made in western Turkey and dating from the 5th or 6th centuries , experts say it is the fragment of a bowl or a large dish which may have been used for sharing food during feasting.
Win Scutt, English Heritage’s properties curator for the West, said: “This is the most significant archaeological project at Tintagel since the 1990s.
“The three-week dig is the first step in a five year research programme to answer some key questions about Tintagel and Cornwall’s past.
“The discovery of high-status buildings – potentially a royal palace complex – at Tintagel is transforming our understanding of the site.
"We’re cutting a small window into the site’s history, to guide wider excavations next year. We’ll also be gathering samples for analysis. It’s when these samples are studied in the laboratory that the fun really starts, and we’ll begin to unearth Tintagel’s secrets.”
The team dug four trenches in two previously unexcavated terrace areas of the island settlement and discovered buildings believed to date from the fifth centuries, when Romano-British rulers fought for control of the island against the Anglo-Saxon invaders.
Geophysical surveys of the terraces earlier in the year detected the walls and layers of the buried buildings, and the archaeologists have discovered two rooms around 11 metres long and 4 metres wide.
Tintagel is one of Europe’s most important archaeological sites.
The remains of the castle, built in the 1230s and 1240s by Richard, Earl of Cornwall, brother of Henry III, stand on the site of an early Medieval settlement, where experts believe high-status leaders may have lived and traded with far-off shores, importing exotic goods and trading tin.
Previous excavations have uncovered thousands of pieces of pottery at Tintagel – with the vast majority dating from the fifth to seventh centuries and imported from the Mediterranean.
Excavations at Tintagel Castle CREDIT: EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS/EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS
The excavation team, directed by Jacky Nowakowski, principal archaeologist at CAU, is working with specialists from Historic England and geophysicists from TigerGeo Ltd.
She said: “CAU are very excited to be involved in English Heritage’s research project at Tintagel. This new archaeological research project will investigate unexplored areas of the island in order to find out more about the character of the buildings on this significant post-Roman settlement at Tintagel.
"It is a great opportunity to shed new light on a familiar yet infinitely complex site where there is still much to learn and to contribute to active research of a major site of international significance in Cornwall. Our excavations are underway now, and will run both this summer and next, giving visitors the chance to see and hear at first hand new discoveries being made and share in the excitement of the excavations.”
Previously researchers discovered a Roman amphitheatre in Chester which some experts believe was King Arthur's stronghold of Camelot.
The earliest accounts about King Arthur have come from the writings of the sixth century monk Gildas. A much fuller account of Arthur's life was written many centuries later by Geoffrey of Monmouth, which may have drawn on earlier sources but was suspected of being wildly embellished.