Barclodiad y Gawres


Archaeological research into a Neolithic structure which revival Druids would have claimed as being built by them. In more modern times, one which could be considered as a Sacred Place. So what is the truth surrounding this monument known as Barclodiad y Gawres?


Barclodiad y Gawres, The giantesses apronful has historically a long recorded history complete with a variety of names. It is situated on a promontory on the west coast of the island of Anglesey. The Cambrain Register of 1799 cites it as Barclodiad y Cnwc this name is retained by Rev J. Skinner in 1802, who mentions it during a tour of the island. Its change appears to have occurred when Rev H. Pritard wrote a full description of the site in 1869. This is then followed by reports from Mr E Baynes in 1910, and W.F. Grimes in 1936. However, the monument did not become excavated until 1952. From which arose the construction of a concrete dome to protects the monument that now is a grass mound. Access is by means of a key that is held locally in the near by shop which can be obtained for a small deposit.

The site is aligned with its entrance near to the North. The main passage when entered runs southwards down a twenty-two foot passageway of varying widths. This leads into the main central chamber. A three foot diameter hearth was uncovered in front of the last remaining cap stone, which is still in its position. The actual hearth appears to have been overlaid with quartzite pebbles and these did not extend outside this area. The content of the heath was analysed by Prof. R.J. Pimphrey F.R.S. from which where identified: -


 Wrase, eel (Aguilla), whiting (or similar gadoid)


 Frog, common toad and naterjack


 Grass snake


 Mouse, shrew and rabbit

The probable explanation and interpretation given was that a wood fire was lit. The joint content was poured on the ashes to liberate this special stew. Finally, the ashes were covered in the quartzite pebbles. However, it's concluded if it had a ritual ceremonial significance, it remains speculative. Identification of the charcoal elements within the fire was attempted. However the analysed sample had decayed, to such an extent it was not possible to determine the actual timber used as fuel in the hearth.

The southern end under the capstone the floor revealed previously disturbed traces of cremations some of which included bone fragments and charcoal. Similar results were excavated within its eastern chamber where the back stone has spiral rock art.

The remaining western chamber were found to be undisturbed, here it was noted that an intentional gap of about eighteen inches to the south had been made leading into a small anti chamber. However, the complete chamber had been originally sealed with a blocking stone. It has been suggested that this would have left a small gap when capped over with a capstone. The anti chamber proved to be very productive with cremations and bone fragments. There was also evidence of bone or antler pins found within this area amongst the funeral cremations. The soil analysis undertaken by Dr. J.P. Riley PhD, F.R.I.C deduced a phosphorus content of 17.4 mg/g. In itself, the largest sample from the site tended to indicate the western chamber was specifically set aside for interning ashes. Fragments of bone cremations were analysed by Dr Lisowski of Birmingham University of Anatomy. It was concluded the Western anti chamber probably contained the remains of two young adult males. Along with a mixture of sheep bone fragments was also included.

The potsherds found within the entrance to the central chamber were suggested to belong to the Peterborough ware or cord decoration with its collared urns. This then tends to give a chronology of Early or Middle Bronze Age. However, the pins found in the western camber annex have been suggested to be Skewer pins by Piggot and implies a second Neolithic cremation.

Barcalodiad y Gawres is perhaps become better known for its rock art. There are five decorated stones with murals. Three of which can be found at the top of the passage before it leads into the main central chamber on either side. The other two are respectively found in the eastern and western chamber. T.G.E. Powel and G.E. Daniel have noted similarity to those found within the Boyne Valley in Ireland. It has also been suggested in the 1950's within the typology sequence of passage graves, this particular site could be an earlier type in chronological comparison to those in the Boyne Valley.

This page first appeared on Bangor University Students Archaeology website 2001 and then on Astrocelt website in 2003-08.

Last updated 09/03/2008


Brynes E, (1910-11), 'The Megalithic Remains of Anglesey', in Transactions of the Cymmodorion Society

Lynch F (1995), A guide to Ancient and Historic Wales, Gwynedd, H.M.S.O

Lynch F (1991), Prehistoric Anglesey, Anglesey Antiquarian Society 2nd edition

Powel T and Daniel G. (1956) Barclodiad Y Gawres, Liverpool

Anglesey, Archaeology, Barclodiad y Gawres, Druids, Sacred Places, Ynys Mon, Wales,
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