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 nationally important. Despite the apparent loss of one of the supporting orthostats, the portal dolmen known as Mulfra Quoit survives well and is one of an extremely rare and ancient type of monument which still retains part of its original surrounding cairn. It will contain archaeological and environmental evidence relating to its construction, use, longevity, funerary practices, ritual and social significance, its relationship to the surrounding field system as well as its overall landscape context.
The monument includes a portal dolmen, called Mulfra Quoit, which is situated close to the summit of the gently-rounded Mulfra Hill, overlooking the Try Valley. The portal dolmen survives as rectangular chamber, defined by three large, upright orthostats with a fallen capstone and traces of a surrounding circular stony mound. Three of the original four massive orthostats remain in-situ; the westernmost is missing. They surround a chamber which measures up to 2m long, 1.7m wide and 1.7m high. The fallen capstone is displaced and rests to the west, leaning partially on the northern and southern orthostats, and it has a possible cup-mark incised into it. The surrounding cairn measures up to 11.6m in diameter and 0.3m high and is less clearly defined to the north east. The whole is incorporated into a prehistoric field system, although the exact relationship between these features is unclear. Also known as 'Mulfra Cromlech' or the 'Giants Quoit' it was first recorded archaeologically by Borlase in 1749 when he undertook a partial excavation within the chamber and uncovered a pit dug '20 inches deep under the natural clay containing clays and in the bottom a black greasy loam' although he recorded no further finds. Various surveys undertaken since this time have shown little change, although some Middle Bronze Age finds were discovered in the vicinity in 1977.
Further archaeological remains survive within the vicinity, some of which are the subject of separate schedulings.
PastScape Monument No:-423397