Reasons for Designation
Portal dolmens are funerary and ceremonial monuments of the Early and Middle Neolithic period, the dated examples showing construction in the period 3500- 2600 BC. As burial monuments of Britain's early farming communities, they are among the oldest visible field monuments to survive in the present landscape. Where sufficiently well-preserved, they comprise a small closed rectangular chamber built from large stone slabs, with free-standing stones flanking the frontal slab of the chamber. A capstone, often massive, covers the chamber, and some examples show traces of a low cairn or platform around the chamber. Some sites have traces of a kerb around the cairn and certain sites show a forecourt area, edged by a facade of upright stones in a few examples. Little is yet known about the form of the primary burial rites. At the few excavated sites, pits and postholes have been recorded within and in front of the chamber, containing charcoal and cremated bone; some chamber contents of soil and stones may be original blocking deposits. Many portal dolmens were re-used for urned cremations, especially during the Middle Bronze Age. Only about 20 portal dolmens are known nationally, concentrated in west Penwith, Cornwall, and in the north-west Oxfordshire Cotswolds, with a scatter between these. As one of the few surviving field monument types of the Neolithic period and due to their rarity, considerable age and longevity of construction and use, all portal dolmens are considered to be important. Despite limited early partial excavation, the portal Dolmen known as 'Pawton Quoit', 325m north west of Haycrock survives well and will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, longevity, ritual and funerary practices, social organisation and overall landscape context.
The monument includes a portal dolmen, situated on a north-facing ridge, overlooking the valley of a tributary to the River Camel. The portal dolmen survives as a rectangular chamber measuring 2.3m long by 1.1m wide internally. It is formed by nine upright orthostats, three of which form a fa‡ade, but without an antechamber, and three of which support a massive capstone located slightly south of centre. The chamber sits within an oval stone and earth mound measuring 21m long by 15m wide and 1.6m high. The capstone is now 3.6m long by 2.1m wide and 0.8m thick with an estimated weight of 14.4 tonnes. Originally 4.6m long, it is the heaviest capstone in Cornwall, and the broken piece remains where it fell.
First recorded by the Ordnance Survey mapping in 1813 where it was named as the 'Druid's Altar', it was recorded and described by Borlase in the late-19th century when he mentions a labourer digging through the mound but finding nothing other than the broken capstone. It was also described by Lukis in 1888, who felt it was a long mound, although this interpretation was disputed by Hencken who said one axis had lengthened because of the slope. The dolmen was surveyed most recently by both Wetherhill and Barnatt. A flint scatter including an end scraper and transverse arrowhead was found around the dolmen during field walking in 1984.
PastScape Monument No:-430271