by Rock Art Network
23 March 2020
Hidden in the soil: Digging reveals new insights of long-lost site in Bryn Celli Ddu landscape.
Archaeologists return to uncover a prehistoric ritual landscape that includes a Bronze Age cairn, potentially larger than its famous neighbour Bryn Celli Ddu, a 5,000-year-old passage tomb aligned with the summer solstice sunrise on Anglesey. The famous Welsh passage tomb might not be as recognisable as Stonehenge, but it possesses a similar alignment where the stones line up with the sun on the longest day of summer. By building the long passage at Bryn Celli Ddu, the sun can creep along it into the far reaches of the inner chamber, an atmospheric moment that many never forget.
Excavation now suggests that the site had significance for prehistoric people that lasted for millennia after the earth mound was raised over a stone passage chamber. The monument has an evocative Welsh name, which translates as 'The Mound in the Dark Grove' and was first excavated in 1865 and then completely reconstructed in the 1920s, but excavations over the last five summers - with members of the public joining archaeologists - have uncovered a rich landscape of archaeological remains, covering more than 5,000 years of human activity.
The work has uncovered 12 examples of rock art carvings, all in the landscape around Bryn Celli Ddu, along with a pit filled with pottery and worked stone tools.
Excavations this year continue to uncover evidence of a long-lost prehistoric burial cairn just meters away from Bryn Celli Ddu, as archaeologists peel back the layers to reveal the monument. Radiocarbon dating has given a date of 1,900 BC, with finds of flint tools and a double kerb of large stones, some of them weighing over a tonne each. Pupils from local primary school Llanddaniel Fab and several others from across Anglesey have been given special access to the site learning about life in their area 5,000 years ago.
Through a series of talks and workshops by on-site archaeologists, as well as witnessing first-hand the discovery of artefacts, it is hoped that the pupils come away from the experience with a deeper understanding and appreciation of their local history as a result of the project.
Artists are also taking part and responding to Bryn Celli Ddu in new ways. John Abell, a Welsh prizewinning printmaker and artist, is working to create new woodcut prints. Abell's distinctive motifs, intertwining fact with folk memory has a persuasive sense of storytelling, bringing the past and present alive using a beguiling visual language.
The project is keen to offer those with an interest in history the opportunity to learn more about the archaeology of the island and have arranged a series of events to coincide with the project. The dig will run from 8 June to 7 July.
Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, said: "During Wales's Year of Discovery, we continue to develop new ways of engaging the people of Wales and beyond with our country's rich heritage. Hosting this excavation and events at Bryn Celli Ddu is an excellent way to encourage a deeper understanding of one of Wales's most impressive prehistoric sites. I hope that local people and visitors alike will be inspired to explore Bryn Celli Ddu this summer, find out about the new archaeological results, and make the most of the free activities and events taking place this June."
The Bryn Celli Ddu landscape project is led by the Welsh Government's historic environment service, Cadw, University of Central Lancashire and Manchester Met University, along with members of the local community and archaeology students.