Chysuaster Ancient Village
Chycauster is an example of a courtyard village. Each stone-built house has a stone-paved courtyard surrounded by rooms and byres, the whole complex enclosed within a stone wall. Outside are the stone-walled fields belonging to the settlement. There are 24 of these villages in SW Cornwall, but this is probably the best example.
Chysauster contains many of the hallmarks of the traditional Cornish village, right down to the street of neat stone cottages with terraced gardens. It was an Iron Age village (Romano-British) inhabited from about 100BC to sometime in the 3rd century AD. It was probably built by members of the Dumnonii tribe of Cornish Britons. The village is composed of eight courtyard houses, laid out in two rows of four. Outside the main grouping of houses is another stone house, and there are the remains of several outlying buildings in the surrounding fields. Some accounts say there are 9 houses.
The oval houses, built in pairs, occupy a site on an east west axis with entrance to the east, each occupying a space about 90feet or 27m long, many of which are very well preserved, but roofless shells. The layout involves an open courtyard about 25 feet in diameter, with a round living room opposite the entrance and a long narrow room along one side wall and small other storage rooms or places to keep animals. The walls are up to 14 feet thick in places. Each of the houses has a terraced garden.
The main rooms feature a central flat stone socket hole, for a wooden post to support the thatched roof. You can see the remains of open hearths, stone basins for grinding grain, and covered drains.
The site also has a fogou (Cornish for cave), an underground passage. The fogou at Chysauster is in a derelict state and not as spectacular as the one that can be seen at Carn Euny, 12 remain in Cornwall. You cannot enter it, as English Heritage filled it in, in the 1980's on safety grounds, as they felt it might cave in, a move which has been very controversial. See Carn Euny for more information on Fogou. I have read comments about some walls being put back in the wrong place at the time of earlier excavations before being taken over by English Heritage, in some accounts this relates to whole sections of the village, effecting the layout as seen now.
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