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Prehistoric Sites in

WALES

by Martin J Powell

Page 3 of 5

Click on a picture to see a larger image (all pictures will open in a new window).

The abbreviation 'Ast' indicates that the site is included in the archaeoastronomy study of monuments in South Wales.

 

Parc Cwm chambered long cairn, Gower (Photo: May 1991)

Looking into the horned forecourt of the Parc Cwm chambered long cairn, Gower (Photo: May 1991)

Parc Cwm

a.k.a. Giant's Grave

Chambered Long Cairn

 

County: West Glamorgan

Ordnance Survey Grid Ref: SS 537 898

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Satellite Photo (Google Maps)

Also known as Parc-le-Breos Cwm, this impressive long cairn is located within a quaint secluded valley on the Gower peninsula. It was discovered by workmen removing stone in 1869, and was subsequently excavated both in that year and from 1960-1.

 

The limestone cairn has been restored and measures 72 ft (22 m) long by 39 ft (12 m) at its widest, Southern end. The forecourt is bell-shaped and displays an impressive dry-stone walling along the two 'horns'. The tomb is entered over a sill-stone into a passage 20 ft (6.2 m) long with two pairs of chambers on either side.

 

The remains of around forty people were found in the 1869 excavation, together with some sherds of Neolithic pottery. The chambers are now all roofless, if indeed they were ever roofed. In 2014 John Cooper successfully demonstrated that a 'roofbox' type structure positioned above and just behind the portal stones would have allowed the rays of the midwinter noon Sun to penetrate the monument and illuminate the rear stone of the passage. There is, however, no surviving evidence to show that such a roofbox ever existed at the site. [Ast]

 

Using skeletal fragments recovered from the first excavation, the long cairn was recently radiocarbon-dated to the later part of the Early Neolithic period in Britain (ca. 3500 BC).

 

Detailed study of four long bones from the excavation enabled archaeologists to estimate the stature of the people interred in the chambers. The conclusion was that the females were 'short and gracile' and the males were 'tall and robust'. Indeed, the 1869 excavation concluded that the recovered bones indicated males of 'gigantic proportions'!

 

Isotopic analysis of the bones suggested that the chamber occupants were primarily meat-eaters, plants and grains being consumed on a much lesser scale. Although the tomb is situated near the coast, fish did not form any significant part of their diet. Archaeologists have speculated that this may reflect an association with an earlier Mesolithic way of life, i.e. the hunting of wild animals and/or animal husbandry. Alternatively, the coastal region was perhaps controlled by a different community, whose communal tomb was Penmaen Burrows (see Page 4) some 1.2 miles (1.9 kms) away to the SSW.

 

Carn Llechart cairn-circle, Glamorgan (Photo: January 1991)

Carn Llechart

Cairn-Circle

 

County: West Glamorgan

O.S. Grid Ref: SN 698 063

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

This kerb-circle (previously classed as a cairn-circle) comprises a ring of 25 slabs, with an internal diameter of 44 ft (13.5 m). Four of the stones have disappeared since 1962, when a survey of the site was conducted by the Royal Commission. The ring is not truly circular, but is somewhat flattened on its North and South sides. None of the slabs stand higher than 3 ft (0.9 m) tall. At the centre of the circle is a ruined cist (small chamber), measuring 7 ft (2.1 m) long by 4 ft (1.2 m) wide.

 

The cairn appears vividly against the skyline when it is approached along the trackway from the North - a factor which probably helped the cairn-builders to determine the location of its construction. [Ast]

 

About 230 ft (70 m) to the West of Carn Llechart is what appears to be a ruinous Neolithic chambered tomb (SN 696 063) with a rectangular-shaped capstone measuring 17 ft (5.3 m) long by 8 ft (2.4 m) wide. Some archaeologists consider it to be simply a natural rock outcrop, however the layout and orientation of this 'tomb' is somewhat similar to that of other Neolithic tombs in the Severn-Cotswold region.

 

 Pentre Ifan burial chamber, Pembrokeshire (Video capture, November 1999)

Pentre Ifan

Burial Chamber

 

County: Pembrokeshire (Dyfed)

O.S. Grid Ref: SN 099 370

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Video capture

This impressive structure comprises a capstone 16 ft (5 m) long delicately poised atop three uprights and standing to a height of 9 ft (2.7 m). There were at least two phases of construction. Firstly, a classic 'portal dolmen' was erected, with several stones forming the chamber, and two tall portals with a 'blocking stone' in between. The chamber occupied the Southern end of a low cairn about 49 ft (15 m) square, orientated NNW-SSE. Around 3300 BC the cairn was extended to 118 ft (36 m) in length and a semi-circular 'horned' forecourt was added. It has been suggested that the blocking stone was an early and permanent feature, the chamber having been accessed from its Eastern side throughout the tomb's period of use.

 

Excavation in 1936-7 found only a few flint flakes and sherds of bowl, but there were no traces of burials.

 

In the early 1970s, archaeologist Frances Lynch identified prehistoric rock art on the outer face of the blocking stone, in the form of a single cupmark and a surrounding ring.

 

The landscape around the tomb is one of the most dramatic of any Welsh tomb, with views of Carn Ingli and other rock outcrops to the West and Newport Bay to the North-west. A recent theory is that the rock outcrops provided a specific focal point when determining the location of the tomb within a 'ritual landscape'.

 

Penrhosfeilw standing stones, Anglesey (Photo: July 1987)

Penrhos-Feilw

Standing Stones

 

County: Anglesey (Ynys Mn)

O.S. Grid Ref: SH 227 809

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Two thin menhirs stand side by side in a field about 1.2 miles (2 kms) South-west of Holyhead. They are 10 ft (3 m) tall and 11 ft (3.3 m) apart, aligned NNE-SSW.

 

There is a tradition that a cist burial was found between the stones, together with a spearhead and arrowheads, but there is no archaeological evidence to support this.

 

The pair are also known by the name Plas Meilw.

 

 

Four Stones, Radnorshire (Photo: April 2004)

Four Stones

Stone Setting

 

County: Powys (Radnorshire)

O.S. Grid Ref: SO 246 608

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Site Plan

Situated in a region referred to as the Walton Basin, the Four Stones are the only confirmed Welsh example of a four-poster stone circle. The circle is about 16 ft (5 m) across and comprises four weathered glacial erratic boulders. The stone heights range from 3 ft (1 m) to 6 ft (1.9 m).

 

The tallest stone at the North-west may have served to indicate the sun as it set behind the dome-shaped Whimble hill (visible in the distance, at centre-right of picture) on the Celtic festival days of Beltane and Lughnasa (present day May Day and Lammas). Like other standing stones in the region (see for example the Kinnerton stone on Page 5), the shapes of these stones appear to mimic the shapes of nearby hills.

 

The stone at the South-west (left of picture) has three cupmarks on its upper surface, and it may have served to indicate the midwinter setting sun.

 

A local legend tells of the stones going to the nearby Hindwell Pool for a drink whenever they hear the bells of Old Radnor church ringing. The reference to the church is interesting, since a local tale says that the early medieval font at St Stephen's Church, Old Radnor - some 1.1 miles (1.7 kms) to the South - was carved from a stone which had been removed from the circle (see photo at Alamy stock photos). Indeed, wide gaps at the North, West and South of the circle (see site plan) could conceivably have accommodated additional stones.

 

Banc Cairn, Montgomeryshire (Photo: November 1995)

Banc Carn

Round Cairn

 

County: Powys (Radnorshire)

O.S. Grid Ref: SO 041 791

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

 

The rays of the late afternoon sun fall upon the stones of Banc Cairn, in a very rural area of mid-Wales South-west of Newtown. Many hundreds of such Bronze Age cairns occupy the upland regions of Wales, in varying states of ruin.

 

A short distance to the North-east of the cairn is the ruinous Banc Du stone circle, also known as Fowler's Armchair because of a nearby boulder which is shaped like a seat. The circle is 42 ft (12.8 m) in diameter and has five upright stones. One of them, named Fowler's Horse Block, is located at the centre of the circle.

 

Din Dryfol chambered tomb, Anglesey (Photo: July 1987)

Din Dryfol

a.k.a. Din Dryfal or

Dinas Dindryfal

Chambered Tomb

 

County: Anglesey (Ynys Mn)

O.S. Grid Ref: SH 396 725

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

This tomb is positioned on the Northern side of Dinas, a massive boss of rock near the Afon Gwna (River Gwna) about 1.2 miles (2 km) North of Bethel village. It is one of around thirty recognised chambered tombs on Anglesey which date from the Neolithic period. This particular site was partially excavated in 1969-70 and again in 1980.

 

The tomb comprises chlorite schist rocks which were obtained from the immediate surroundings. The cairn originally measured about 200 ft (60 m) long by 50 ft (15 m) wide. In the excavator's opinion, the surrounding ridges of projecting rock appear to have determined the tomb's size and orientation (NE-SW), the chambers themselves occupying the North-eastern end.

 

The huge portal stone - visible towards the right of the picture - is 8 ft (2.6 m) long, 2 ft (0.7 m) thick and stands about 9 ft (2.9 m) above the present surface level. A second portal once stood some 8 ft (2.5 m) further North; only its base was found during excavation, the upper section having sheared off at some time in the distant past. These two stones marked the entrance to a series of three (possibly four) chambers which stretched along a length of about 41 ft (12.5 m). Only the Westernmost chamber has survived; its internal dimensions were originally about 9 ft 10 in (3 m) by 3 ft 3 in (1 m) and it would have stood about 6 ft (2 m) high; now only a side-supporter is visible (left of picture). The chamber's capstone partly rests on this slab, having slipped forward at some time prior to 1871. Excavation also revealed a pair of post-holes at the entrance to one of the chambers; these may have supported some kind of wooden mortuary structure which existed prior to the chamber's construction.

 

Finds from the excavations included the cremated bone fragments of two adults, pieces of Neolithic pottery, part of a polished stone axe and pieces of waste flint.

Gwernwyddog standing stone, Brecknockshire (Photo: April 1987)

Gwernwyddog (Usk Reservoir Stone)

Standing Stone

 

County: Powys (Brecknockshire)

O.S. Grid Ref: SN 833 283

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Located about 0.25 miles (0.4 kms) South-east of Usk Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons National Park, the Gwern Wyddog is a limestone conglomerate block 7 ft (2.3 m) high, 7 ft (2.1 m) wide and 4 ft (1.2 m) thick.

 

It is one of the most massive standing stones within the Park and is estimated to weigh some 20 tons (20,300 kgs).

 

 

 

 

 

Gors-y-Gedol burial chamber, Merionethshire (Photo: July 1987)

Cors-y-Gedol

Burial Chamber

 

County: Gwynedd (Merionethshire)

O.S. Grid Ref: SH 603 228

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

This ruinous tomb, also known as Gors-y-Gedol, stands beside a trackway leading out of Dyffryn Ardudwy town and its associated chambered cairn (see Page 2).

 

A capstone measuring 11 ft (3.5 m) long by 10 ft (3 m) wide partly rests on a single orthostat. The chamber was probably rectangular in form and it occupies the Eastern end of a denuded long mound about 85 ft (26 m) long by 39 ft (12 m) wide. There are traces of a forecourt structure ahead of the orthostat.

 

 

Trecastell stone circle, Brecon Beacons (Photo: March 1987)

Trecastle Mountain

a.k.a. Trecastell

Stone Circles

 

County: Powys (Brecknockshire)

O.S. Grid Ref: SN 833 311

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

The circle pictured is the smaller of two circles located on Mynydd Bach Trecastell, North of Usk Reservoir in the Brecon Beacons. It is 26 ft (7.9 m) in diameter and has just four visible stones out of a total of nine. A row of four low-standing stones leads away from the circle towards the South-west.

 

Prof. Alexander Thom proposed three alignments on the sun from within and between the two circles, although he apparently overlooked the stone row because it is so deeply buried in the bracken.

 

The larger circle, 144 ft (44 m) to the North-east, is 75 ft (23 m) across and has 21 small stones which surround a cairn. [Ast]

 

A short distance to the West of the circles are the earthwork remains of two Roman temporary marching camps called Y Pigwn (SN 827 312).

 

Gwl-y-Filiast cromlech, Carmarthenshire (Video capture, November 1999)

Gwal-y-Filiast

Burial Chamber

 

County: Carmarthenshire (Dyfed)

O.S. Grid Ref: SN 170 256

O.S. Map (Streetmap)

Video capture

Located in a clearing on the steeply wooded slopes of the Afon Taf river, Gwl-y-Filiast ("greyhound's kennel") comprises four orthostats supporting a capstone measuring 12 ft (3.6 m) long by 9 ft (2.7 m) wide and 2 ft (0.6 m) thick. The chamber entrance most likely faced uphill to the North-east.

 

According to an 1872 account, a gap on the chamber's South-western side was originally occupied by a fifth orthostat. It also referred to a circle of stones around the chamber, although today there are few indications of any covering cairn, or an entrance passage.

Copyright  Martin J Powell  2001-2017

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