The people who inhabited the very north of the British mainland (modern Caithness), and Cornwall were also known by the same name, but according to mainstream or academic opinion were quite separate and unrelated peoples. (see List of Celtic tribes).
The first mention of the tribe occurs in the works of Ptolemy in the 2nd century A.D.:
The name may mean "People of the Horn". Graham Webster in The Cornovii (1991) cites Anne Ross's hypothesis that the tribal name(s) may be totemic cult-names referring to a "horned god" cult followed by the tribe(s) and although there is no direct evidence of this, Webster points out that it is interesting that at Abbot's Bromley the "horn dance" which he believes survived from pagan ritual (something questioned by other folklorists) — Abbot's Bromley being only 55 km north east of the old tribal centre at Wroxeter (Virconium Cornoviorum). In addition, Webster quotes Professor Charles Thomas as having made a "good case" for such totemic ethnonyms in Scotland.
Webster (1991) states that the Cornovii produced little in the way of identifiable ceramic wares. However, recent research at Poulton, Cheshire, has found large amounts (10kg) of very coarse pottery (VCP), or briquetage. Such pottery is associated with the production, storage and transport of salt. Their sites are identified by construction details of their hill forts and metalwork artefacts. The Cornovii built numerous hill forts, including Titterstone Clee near Bitterley. Old Oswestry hill fort is also thought to have been inhabited by the Cornovii. One of these hill forts is probably that referred to by the historian Tacitus as the last refuge of the resistance led by Caratacus in 50 AD. However, the nature of hill forts is strongly contested among archaeologists, with some crediting them only as tribal status symbols or cattle stockades rather than defended settlements.