Quoits were built in the mid-3000s BCE in the neolithic, around the same time as the tor enclosures.
They're surprisingly advanced structures that involved careful quarrying, engineering and transport of stones.
Normally they're looked on as tombs, but I suggest they were energy-chambers sitting on top of underground blind springs, built for capping up-welling energy-vortices from below, or for capturing an energy-line or two in the landscape, terminating it there and sending it downwards. Or perhaps the direction of flow alternates with the season. High-energy atmospheres could be generated within the chamber - and that was one of their main purposes.
They will have been used as repositories for storing and charging up objects, tinctures and special items, and as initiatory and healing chambers, and also as site for funerary rites ('ancestor worship', as we moderns disdainfully call it) but not necessarily for actual burial.
They weren't just local tribes' shrines. The quoits - all located in the northern, upland part of Penwith - are all positioned to reflect astronomical factors and ancient site alignments. They were positioned as an integrated system, and this required organisation and collaboration. It might be that they were all built around the same time.
They were a trial run in creating the integrated landscape system that emerged as further megalithic sites were built in the bronze age. Such a system was made up of a collection of megalithic sites that work together as one.
Chûn Quoit with Carn Eanes and Boscaswell church behind. In this photo Chûn Castle is behind us
Chûn Quoit is the only intact quoit in Penwith. It has stood there for 5,500 years. From here you can see the winter solstice sunset over Carn Kenidjack, a neolithic tor over a mile away.
The quoit was downhill from a neolithic enclosure on Chûn Castle. When both were built, the surrounding land would have been forested.
Looking inside Chûn Quoit. Most archaeologists believe that quoits were covered with earth (as if a burial chamber) but those gaps are too large to keep the earth out. No, quoits were not for burial and I don't think they were covered - and no quoits around here show convincing signs of being earth-covered. It's a case of fitting the evidence around the theory, but the theory is, well, rather empty
Chûn Quoit as seen from Boswens menhir, about half a mile away (telephoto shot). Chûn Quoit is clearly highlighted on the horizon from Boswens, but not vice versa
Chûn Quoit from down in the Gump
Mulfra Quoit is not quite intact. It has had one vertical stone (orthostat) taken away, and the capstone has been carefully propped on the side of the quoit - as if it has been deliberately decommissioned. It has a fine view of St Michael's Mount, a neolithic tor of a similar vintage, oriented in the direction of winter solstice sunrise.
Mulfra Quoit with St Michael's Mount and Cudden Point behind (both cliff sanctuaries and all three are neolithic sites)
Mulfra Quoit. I think it was decommissioned - notice how the capstone is carefully laid on the side. Also one vertical propping stone has been taken away completely
Mulfra Quoit and St Michael's Mount as seen from Beacon Barrows
Mulfra Quoit's former capstone, broken in one corner
Zennor Quoit is rather similarly 'decommissioned', with its capstone carefully laid to the side.
It was nearly destroyed by a farmer but saved by an antiquarian. Take an alignment from Sperris Quoit to Zennor Quoit and it aligns with Lanyon Quoit, oriented to the northern lunar maximum rising point.
Zennor Quoit. The low vertical stone on the right of the picture is not part of the original quoit
Zennor Quoit. This quoit was possibly decommissioned too
Zennor Quoit, looking ethereal
Zennor Quoit, looking rather dishevelled in this photo
Zennor Quoit, looking mystical
Sperris Quoit is very damaged. It's not far from Zennor Quoit and a little tricky to find, but worth it.
A few of its stones remain. Around it is a rock temple of granite rocks, propped and placed stones.
Placed stones and a rock temple at Sperris Quoit. This 'temple' might have been gardened too - certainly the climate was warmer and better, and these hills were green and pleasant then, and a good place to live. Neolithic des res.
Zennor Quoit as seen from Sperris Quoit. If you continue over the far horizon in a straight line, you'll reach Lanyon Quoit
The sad remains of Sperris Quoit, which might have been quite grand in its heyday. Like most of the quoits it was built around 3700-3500 BCE.
Lanyon Quoit looks intact but it isn't. It fell down in a storm in the 19th C and was incorrectly restored, with some stones missing. But it's on the right location. It is remarkably placed in sight of Carn Galva, the neolithic tor. Around it is a small complex of a long cairn, a cist cairn, stones and pools.
Lanyon Quoit with neolithic tor Carn Galva behind. Both were part of the same wide sacred landscape
Lanyon Quoit as seen from Bosiliack Barrow (half mile telephoto shot)
Lanyon Quoit with Carn Galva behind. As you can see from this, Lanyon Quoit was reconstructed strangely, and it has lost some of its vertical stones
The sad remains of West Lanyon Quoit, wrecked
Lanyon Quoit and Carn Galva
The high neolithic, when the quoits and tor enclosures were built, came to an end around 3200 BCE, ended by a crisis (more here).
No more megalithic structures are known to have been built in Penwith after that, until the bronze age came along around 2500. Strange, that.