Good morning! We are going to continue with the Thirty-One Days of Time Team. This time we are on the Island of Loee in Cornwall exploring a Hermit Island.
Monks, ghosts, treasure maps, shipwrecks, and dramatic coasts are the highlights of Cornwall. However, it was off the Cornish coast where the first rumblings of Christianity in Britain were heard. The Time Team will face a new challenge with this dig. The tides only allow the team to spend five hours digging on the island. They are on the search for two chapels, one on the island and one built into the hilltop.
Legend has it, Joseph of Arimathea brought Jesus to the island and while he was doing business with Cornish tin miners, Jesus would play on the coast. This legend would have brought pilgrimages to the island. Early archeologists believed the site to come from the Celtic period. Mick disagrees with that assessment so the Time Team will have to find dating evidence for the chapels.
Geophysics works on the site alongside Stewart Ainsworth. Even on the surface, there seem to be indications of a building. Phil puts in the first trench before the geophysics team is done. The first chapel on the site is dedicated to St. Michael. Tony does some investigating into the history of the Chapel and why it would be dedicated to St. Michael. This Chapel was tied to the Glastonbury Abbey.
Time Team is also investigating a site on the mainland. They are looking for a second chapel. An archeologist in the 1930’s had done some investigating before. However, World War II cut short his excavation. There were a few theories about mainland sight. Did the monks at Glastonbury add to an existing chapel? Or did they build a new one from scratch? The Time Team will pick up from where this earlier archeologist left behind.
The archeology for both sites will be a bit complicated. Chapel sites normally do not leave behind the dating evidence normally found on household sites. The Time Team has found a burial on the island site. The individual was quite big. When Glastonbury Abbey purchased the island there was an existing chapel on the site. After the site was purchased, two monks were sent over to start a new pilgrimage site.
These two monks would have faced a challenge. The island is often buffeted by winds that could cut the island off from the mainland. A couple of Time Team members volunteered to stay on the island to continue the dig. The tides are going out, and so the other Time Team members will have to leave the island. The volunteers continue with the dig.
In the meantime, the dig continues on the mainland. The Time Team is finding stairs, walls, and floor. The builders seemed to have deliberately terraced the chapel and it made it at the same level as the chapel on the island. The Time Team wants to find the Nave and wants to discover if a chancel was built later. Some features indicate that there was an earlier structure on the site. There seem to be post holes in the ground for an earlier, wooden chapel. Time Team is still searching for dating evidence.
The logistics of the site provided an interesting challenge for the Time Team. The tides limited the amount of time the Time Team could spend on the island. Even the Royal Navy got involved with this dig looking for rocks and wrecks. The story of the chapel was fascinating and furthered the story of Cornwall. This would be an episode for independent study students and a filler for a substitute teacher.
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