Ben Edwards, LAS evening lecture, 20 April 2018
Bryn Celli Ddu is one of the most important Neolithic passage graves on Anglesey, dating to circa 3000 BC. It is built of local blue schist, which contains pyrites (fool’s gold), which must have appeared very attractive to the builders. Dr Edwards explained that our present view of the passage grave is the result of reconstruction following the original excavation, and is not a wholly accurate view. The original mound was more extensive, and the nearby decorated standing stone was actually found buried in a pit under the mound.
Mesolithic post holes have been found on the site, and the grave appears to have been built on a pre-existing henge monument. The purpose of the present series of excavations was to verify the henge monument, and look for other Neolithic activity in the surrounding area. Originally the grave sat on a gravel ridge surrounded by marshy land, but the area has since been considerably altered over time by stream canalisation and land drainage. Geophysics was used to try to identify the presence of a bank of the henge monument, but unfortunately the results were inconclusive, although slight ‘humps’ were detected. Examination of the adjacent fields was more successful. A nearby outcrop of blue schist bore many shallow ‘cupmarks’ on its surface, although sadly it appears that most of the outcrop has been quarried away, along with the archaeology. Trenches were dug in promising spots, the first revealing remains of a stone cairn plus a flint arrowhead, while the second uncovered possible kerb stones of a cairn. Both cairns would have been covered by mounds, possibly as large as Bryn Celli Ddu itself. A further trench located a pit circle, containing part of a Neolithic stone axe from the Penmaenmawr axe factory – but more importantly the pit circle contained Grooved Ware pottery fragments, of a type always associated with passage graves.
So, Dr Edwards concluded that Bryn Celli Ddu did not stand in lone splendour, but was part of a larger ritual landscape – an important and special place for the Neolithic people.
All in all an excellent lecture, full of new and sometimes surprising information, for which we are very grateful to Ben. There is, incidentally, an Open Day planned at the site for 16th June – details here – all welcome.
Posted by Mavis Shannon
Photo from Cadw