Cornish Early Neolithic pottery which dates to around 3900 – 3600 cal BC, that is over 5,000 years ago, is very distinctive: these pots are generally undecorated, have wide mouths, rounded bases with simple lugs or handles.
Discoveries of such early pottery are however not that common. The largest collection in the county comes from the stunning Neolithic hilltop site at Carn Brea on the edge of Camborne where over several thousand sherds were found during excavations there in the 1970s. Now Carwynnen Quoit can be added to the map of Early Neolithic Cornwall. During the 2012 excavations at Carwynnen over 20 fragments of Early Neolithic pottery were found. These have been identified by Henrietta Quinnell. No complete pots were found but instead these were small fragments found from across the entire excavation area – some were discovered on the fringes beyond the actual location of the quoit. Most are well made of the gabbroic clays and at least 2 sherds have some quartz added for temper. The addition of quartz is a marked characteristic of such early pottery. The clay source of these pots lie some 30km to the south-west of Carwynnen on the Lizard and their discovery at Carwynnen shows active pathways of exchange between small communities throughout this period. We do not know where the pots were made but it is likely that they were brought to the quoit by communities living in the wider locality. It is tempting to suggest, at least, a link between Carwynnen and the Early Neolithic community based at the hilltop settlement at Carn Brea some 6 km to the north-east. These are new and exciting discoveries as this is first time that such early pottery has been confidently associated with the Cornish quoits and their discovery here suggests they were being brought to the monument during at early stage of its history and some may well date to the time of the construction of the monument.
A handful pot fragments known as Grooved Ware were also found during the 2012 excavations at Carwynnen. These types of pots are very distinctive – they are usually tub-shaped with flat bases and display highly idiosyncratic decoration which comprises slashed herring-bone, cordon and spiral motifs. In Cornwall such pots date to the later Neolithic period - that is around 2900 to 2200 cal BC - and have been found on a variety of sites such as beneath or within an Early Bronze Age barrow (eg Trevone, Padstow – a burial mound) or hidden in pits (eg Tremough, Penryn and Trevorva Cott, Probus). A recent collection was discovered at the enigmatic late Neolithic enclosure discovered on the eastern edges of Truro in 2012 (Woodcock Corner). The Grooved Ware fragments found at Carwynnen are just fragments and are poorly preserved but they reveal a long and active history of use of the monument dating to at least 1,000 years after the monument was built.