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Trethevy Quoit is sited on a promontory overlooking the confluence of streams which flow southwards to become the River Seaton; the northern skyline is dominated by Caradon Hill and granite massif of Minions Moor. Trethevy is considered to be the best preserved quoit in Cornwall and one of the most impressive of its type in Britain. John Norden, writing in 1584, described it as “A little howse raised of mightie stones, standing on a little hill within a fielde”.
Four large overlapping granite slabs set upright form the sides of the chamber with lateral stones at front and back. The back stone is leaning inwards, and the massive capstone which is supported by these uprights rests at a crazy angle. It is not clear whether this was a feature of the original design of the monument or the result of a partial collapse or slippage. A curious round hole has been drilled through the top corner of the capstone. A small antechamber was formed at the front of the monument but only one of the two original upright stones remains. A rectangular cut-out at the side of the upright stone that forms the front of the main chamber may have been an original entrance but it could equally be a later modification – certainly, no other Cornish site has such a feature. The quoit is surrounded by a stony mound or cairn which would probably have been more impressive than it is today, though it is thought unlikely that the quoit would ever have been completely covered.
Also known as cromlechs and portal dolmens, excavations have shown that these kinds of sites were constructed in the early and middle Neolithic period between 3700-3300 BC. They were used over long periods as communal tombs or ossuaries to house the bones of the ancestors. Due to the acidity of the soil no bones have been found in Cornish quoits, but excavations elsewhere have revealed human bones in the chambers and pits and postholes in the forecourt area. It was not unusual for quoits to have been the focus for Bronze Age funerary rituals in the form of cremations placed in burial urns.
Regional variations of Portal Dolmens are found all over the British Isles and indeed throughout the world. In Britain they are most numerous in the rocky western parts such as Cornwall, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, though they are also found further to the east in Wiltshire and Oxfordshire for example. Studies carried out in several areas around the Irish Sea seem to indicate that sites were placed carefully in the landscape in relation to hills and water, with entrances aligned towards particular horizon features or celestial events. Trethevy Quoit is orientated roughly towards the east-south-east.
Trethevy Quoit is well signposted from a small lay-by car park in the hamlet of Trethevystone, between Darite and Tremar.
Barnatt, J, 1982. Prehistoric Cornwall: The Ceremonial Monuments. Turnstone Press Limited. ISBN 0 85500 129 1