As we hit summertime, well in theory anyway, archaeologists up and down the country can be found out doing what most people think they do all the time – excavating! Well, it is the traditional time for excavating, especially for University departments and volunteer groups. So for the next few months Ian and I will be trying to get to more excavations around the country covering as many periods as we can to let you know what’s happening. We kick off this weekend with a visit to Anglesey and north Wales.
First up on our busy schedule will be Bryn Celli Ddu. This weekend the community archaeology group project Tinkiswood will be holding their latest open day, so we’re taking the opportunity to catch-up with good archaeology and good friends! You can follow the link to find out more about the project and this year’s excavations.
Bryn Celli Ddu is what is known as a passage tomb. This one of four types structures covered by the term chambered tombs which date to the Neolithic or New Stone Age (c4,000-2,300 BC). It is one of the best known archaeological sites in Wales. It is still impressive after 5,000 years. Like many other prehistoric sites Bryn Celli Ddu has a complex history and excavations have revealed some of this.
They have shown that the monument began as a henge, a monument consisting of a circular ditch with an external bank. This enclosed a stone circle of upright stones – similar to Arbor Low here in the Peak District. The ditch was 21 metres in diameter and some of the edge can still be seen. Sometime later, quite when we don’t know yet but likely towards the end of the Neolithic, the henge was remodelled to make way for the tomb.
Bryn Celli Ddu, like all passage tomb consists of a long passage that leads to a stone chamber. Most of the finds made in excavations of the tomb were, unsurprisingly, human bones. These included both burnt and unburnt bones and were found in the passage of the tomb. Elsewhere fewer finds were evident, but perhaps significantly they included quartz, a stone bead, and limpet and mussel shells. Bryn Celli Ddu is the only one on Anglesey that is aligned to coincide with the rising sun on the summer solstice with the dawn sunlight spreading down the passageway to flood the burial chamber. Chambered tombs like Bryn Celli Ddu are a type of burial monument found in a large area around the Irish seaboard and as far afield as Brittany.
Not content with this, we hope to visit more of the archaeology of Anglesey on our trip. On Sunday we are visiting Llandudno where we plan to visit the Bronze Age copper mines of Great Orme and the museum which has an exhibition of Ice Age Art! Of course, the children will be coming with us and are looking forward to some, if not most of the trip. We are going to take them to a certain railway station for a photo opportunity not to be missed. More next week!