Prehistoric midden at West Porth, Annet
Heritage Category: Scheduled Monument
List Entry Number: 1014996
Date first listed: 04-Oct-1996
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The building or site itself may lie within the boundary of more than one authority.
District: Isles of Scilly (Unitary Authority)
Parish: St. Agnes
National Grid Reference: SV 86183 08649
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
Reasons for Designation
The Isles of Scilly, the westernmost of the granite masses of south west
England, contain a remarkable abundance and variety of archaeological remains
from over 4000 years of human activity. The remote physical setting of the
islands, over 40km beyond the mainland in the approaches to the English
Channel, has lent a distinctive character to those remains, producing many
unusual features important for our broader understanding of the social
development of early communities.
Throughout the human occupation there has been a gradual submergence of the
islands' land area, providing a stimulus to change in the environment and its
exploitation. This process has produced evidence for responses to such change
against an independent time-scale, promoting integrated studies of
archaeological, environmental and linguistic aspects of the islands'
The islands' archaeological remains demonstrate clearly the gradually
expanding size and range of contacts of their communities. By the post-
medieval period (from AD 1540), the islands occupied a nationally strategic
location, resulting in an important concentration of defensive works
reflecting the development of fortification methods and technology from the
mid 16th to the 20th centuries. An important and unusual range of post-
medieval monuments also reflects the islands' position as a formidable hazard
for the nation's shipping in the western approaches.
The exceptional preservation of the archaeological remains on the islands has
long been recognised, producing an unusually full and detailed body of
documentation, including several recent surveys.
Middens are concentrations of occupation refuse which has been aggregated to form an artificial mound or a defined spread, rather than dispersed or used for manuring. The refuse they contain may result from long or short term occupation, and from a broad or narrow range of activities; the origin of a particular midden within that considerable range may be determined by analysis of its contents and its siting. Midden contents commonly include food debris such as animal and fish bones, mollusc shells and charred plant remains, with unburnt remains surviving in favourable circumstances. Middens may also include ash and soil from occupation surfaces, artefacts such as flint tools, pottery and, in later middens, metal and glass objects, together with debris from tool manufacture and other activities. Midden sites vary considerably according to their origin ranging from heaps of diverse domestic refuse located close to a year-round settlement structure, to mounds of largely mollusc shells and fishbones at seasonally-occupied coastal sites favoured for fishing and preparation of the catch. Nationally, middens are known from all phases of human occupation to the present day, but they may be assigned to particular periods by the presence of distinctive artefacts in their fabric, by close physical association with datable occupation structures, or by their occurrence within deposits of a known environmental phase. More precise dating may be obtained by scientific analyses of their contents, for example by radiocarbon dating of organic material. Medieval and earlier middens are an important source of information about the nature and organisation of economic activity of earlier communities. Their contents also provide important technological and environmental evidence, while middens accumulated over long periods also preserve a rare continuum of data on past economic, technological and environmental trends. At least 24 middens are recorded on the Isles of Scilly, ranging in date from the Neolithic period (c.4000 to 2000 BC) to the 19th century AD, though it is considered that more will be revealed by a combination of systematic survey and advancing coastal erosion. This midden on Annet survives well, without recorded excavation, and forms one of the larger known midden sites despite some encroachment of the shoreline onto its south east edge. The prehistoric pottery from the Annet middens, considered to derive from surface collection, confirms their early date and that their contents are a valuable survival of evidence relating to the island's prehistoric land use. Although some adjoining contemporary settlement areas have been submerged by rising sea levels, the important data embodied in this midden is set in its wider prehistoric context by the survival of the other prehistoric settlement and funerary monuments on this island and by the environmental sequence embodied within an unusually deep thrift turf that blankets much of this island's land surface.
Legacy Record - This information may be included in the List Entry Details.
The monument includes a large prehistoric midden which borders the north west
side of West Porth near the centre of Annet, an uninhabited island in the
south west of the Isles of Scilly.
The midden survives as an extensive relatively low mound, most of whose volume
is made up of limpet shells with some shells of other marine molluscs. The
midden rises to 0.7m high and extends for 60m north east - south west along
the upper shore of the bay. Due to the island's gradual submergence, the
present shoreline encroaches on the south east of the midden but its shelly
fabric remains visible in surface exposures for up to 25m inland from the
upper shoreline at the south west, narrowing to 2.5m from the upper shoreline
at the north east. This is one of three prehistoric middens on central and
southern Annet, the others being located on the opposite side of West Porth.
Bronze Age pottery was recovered from these middens in the early 20th century;
the other two middens have also produced prehistoric flint artefacts and are
closely associated with a broadly contemporary hut circle and field system. A
prehistoric field wall is also visible near the western tip of Annet and a
Bronze Age kerbed cairn is sited near the summit of the island's north west
hill, 300m to the north west. All of these archaeological features are the
subjects of separate schedulings.
MAP EXTRACT The site of the monument is shown on the attached map extract. It includes a 2 metre boundary around the archaeological features, considered to be essential for the monument's support and preservation.
The contents of this record have been generated from a legacy data system.
Legacy System number: 15448
Legacy System: RSM
Books and journals
Russell, V, Isles of Scilly Survey, (1980)
Parkes, C, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7046, (1988)
Parkes, C, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7048, (1988)
Parkes, C, AM 107 for Scilly SMR entry PRN 7050, (1988)
Parkes, C, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7047.1 & 7050, (1988)
Parkes, C, AM 107s for Scilly SMR entries PRN 7047.2 & 7048, (1988)
Title: 1:10000 Ordnance Survey Map, SV 80 NE Source Date: 1980 Author: Publisher: Surveyor:
This monument is scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 as amended as it appears to the Secretary of State to be of national importance. This entry is a copy, the original is held by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
End of official listing