Druid's Circle

Synopsis:

Druid Circle is situated above the headland at Penmaenmawr, in North Wales, its name derives from the time of Gladstone, and the revival of the interest in Druids. Yet what can be deduced about this Circle of stones.......

The stone circle which many be known as the Druid's Circle, is part of a small complex of archaeology sites on cefn coch ridge above Penmeanmawr. Additionally there is circle 275 and 278, along with an additional group of stones on which much debate has been centred. However the name change from Meini Herion to the Druid circle appears to have two sources. The first is credited to the 19th century Prime Minster Gladstone whose visit to Penmeanmawr encouraged it to become a popular Victorian destination. The second belongs to the imaginations from the 18th century where such sites similar to Bryngwyn, were associated with the mysterious Druids. This has been fuelled from romantic notions from Richard Farrington whose manuscript dealing with ancient monuments within the area makes this connection (NLW. 118). Subsequently other commentators have also followed this theme. As does the signs visible today perpetuate the same content ading to the monument. In contrast the early tour writer Thomas Pennant refers to it by its previous name as Meini Herion (tall stones).

The Druids circle sits on a raised circular bank and is hidden from view by a raised mound in the north. Subsequently it is very difficult to see when looking upwards 1300 ft from Penmeammawr below. However when approached from the east along the ancient track way, from circle 275 it can be clearly seen on the horison. Nonetheless it was partly excavated during 1958-9, when a single trench aligned to NW-SE across the circle was explored. The central area of the trench also became extended either side after the discovery of a primary cist burial. Subsequently it revealed two secondary burial urns and a further cremation. Further excavation trenches on the south-west-north circular quadrants, inclusive of the outlying stone, in the east outside the main circle were also investigated.

Interesting the entrance to the circle is prominent in the west south west even today. The two circular sides at this point do not correspond with each other, to form an actual circle. Various finds from within the confines of the circle included some axe modules from the near by Craig Llywd situated to the NW on horizon. This is a generic recognised "axe factory" from the Neolithic period. There too was a high proportion of quartz recovered which suggests it was deliberately placed either by its constructors or at some stage soon after it completion. Additional a number of flints were also recovered from the centre of the circle within a stone scatter near the primary burial.

The cist burial was contained within lozenge shape built from five flat stones, aligned to the SW. In which was an upturned urn of the Abercromby type with single corded decorations which had originally been a food vessel (Grimme 1957, Griffiths 1960. 315). (On display in the Bangor Museum). The remains have been analysed to reveal the cremated remains of a female-aged 10-12yrs. Towards the WNW under a slab of stone a secondary urn burial was recovered of the same urn type; containing the remains of unidentified gender aged 11-13yrs. A bronze knife also accompanied this urn. The remaining urn and additional cremation was set to the SE of the main cist. The urn was of the plain style but also of the Abercromby type. The cremation was nearby situated on flat stones. In both cases determination of the remains unable the later examiners to distract any further information. Overall there was no evidence which suggested that any cremations were conducted within the circle itself.

Although earlier antiquarian reports vary with the numberof visible stone within the circle. The 1958-59 excavation recorded a total of 30 which had originally made up the monument; 16 of which could be in their original locations; while the remaining have either fallen or since displaced. All the stones are natural and are unworked and have no signs of any markings or rock art. Between the outer stones an additional stone layer were uncoverd. This appears to form a continual line giving its circular shape between them (Griffiths 1960, 307, 311). This is noticeable from the periphery areas excavated on the plan.

Overall the excavator conclusions were the circle is of probable Bonze Age origin. Connections to the Wessex culture or area was also suggested. Primairy due to urn style raisnig links with trading of gold from Ireland and etc where suggested. However this may be further supported by recent discoveries at Bocombe with the "Bowmens grave"; where teeth ananlysis links them originally toWales, as we know it today (Wessex Arch 2004, internet). It therefore becomes probably links between the two areas may have existed.

Since the excavations occurred various other studies have been contributed. For instance Bronze age burials within stone circles, have been suggested to be a later infringement on them, by later societies (Burl 2000). There to have been an archaeoastronomy relationship attached to the circle contributed to celestial phenomena (Thom, 1967, 100; Thom et al 1980). Indeed the original excavator did make a passing remark to the aliment from the cist to the outlying east stone, and to the Sun; but commented no further (Griffith 1960, 315). Lastley the way the stones circle became placed, and hight of stones raises or is graded towards a prominent direction have also been explored (Barnett 1988, 380).

Interestingly questions could be raised as whether this is actually a stone circle as defined in today. Specifically as historical commentators have indicated the possibility of a cairn within its centre. The discovery of the cist and the secondary burials, flints and stone scatters raises such probabilities.

Original 22/6/2004

Bibliography

Barnatt, J., (1998), Stone Circles of Britain: Taxonomic and Distribution analyses and a Catalogue of Sites in England and Scotland and Wales, BAR 215 (ii), Oxford University Press

Burl H.A.W. 2000, The Stone Circles of British, Ireland and Brittany, Yale University Press, London

Farrington, R, National Library of Wales Mss 118, 18th Century

Griffiths W.E., 1960, The excavations of Stone circles near Penmaenmawr, North Wales, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society pp. 303-350

Grimme, W.F., 1957, Prehistory of Wales, National History Museum Wales

Grimes W.F., 1963, 'The stone circles and related monuments of Wales', in Foster I and Alcock L. (eds) Culture and environment, Essays in Honour of Sir Cyril Fox, London pp. 93-152

Thom, 1967, Megalithic sites in Britain, Oxford University Press

Thom, Thom and Burl, 1980, Megalithic Rings, BAR 81, Oxford

Internet

http://www.wessexarch.co.uk/projects/wiltshire/boscombe/bowmen/index.htm...


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Druids, Circle,
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