Bryn Celli Ddu (Hill of the Dark Grove)

Synopsis:

Bryn Celli Ddu (Hill of the Dark Grove) is a Neolithic/Bronze Passage Grave c.4000- 2000BC often associated with the Celts and Druids since the 18th century. Indeed its a remarkable structure which has been restored after excavations and is in the care of cadw. A study of this site is available here.


Rev. Henry Rowlands originally recorded this site, as did Llwyn Llwyd in 1723 that reported in the Mona Antiqua, where its present, observed state was recorded. When its name is compared with its modern counterpart, this could be interpreted respectively as a Grey Grove or a Blessed Grove or even a Holy Grove. It's not until Henry P. Wyndham who published, 'A Tour through Monmouthshire and Wales', of his visited in November 1777. This is when the structure enters the record as having been entered. Moreover W.J Hemp cites Henry P. Wyndham who noted the round pillar stone inside. Along with 'human bones dispersed over the floor' these turned to dust when touched. Similarly Thomas Pennant, records and notes human bones in a similar state on a stone ledge along the entrance passage in 1784.

Rev. John Skinner sketched the interior of the chamber in 1847, which became published in the Archaeologia Cambernsis of that year. The monument is later recorded as being entered in 1865 by Capt. F.D Lukis observations of which became published in 1869 by Rev. E.L. Branwell. It is interesting to note, at this time the name changes from yr ogof to its present form. Capt. Lukis dairy that Henry Hemp uses, states that Lukis saw a similarity with sites in Brittany of this type. In addition he pointed to the pillar stones in the main chamber being much the same found at Carnac. However, when Capt. Lukis investigated the pillar base within the chamber, ashes and burnt human bones were found at its base. This pillar appears to be of importance described as a "ritual pillar" by R.A.S. Macalister. Nonetheless, Hemp draws our attention to similarities found at Newgrange and Carrowkeel. Overall, the artefacts recorded were a piece of red jasper, limpet shells, a broken flint arrowhead and a javelin point.

In 1923, Bryn Celli Ddu came under the protection of the Ministry of Works that funded the archaeological investigation, and its present preservation seen today. Excavations revealed 4 different soil layers from within the passage. A side bench was uncovered as the soil was removed to locate the passage floor. On which 'fragments of human cremated bone were scattered' along with those of teeth and unburnt bone. There was generally a build up of soil on the north side of the passage. Again similarities concerning the stone bench are also found in Taversoe Tuiek in Rousay, Orkney according to Prof. J. Anderson. In addition, A.J.H Edwards points out similarities of the stone benches located at Camster and Caithness. Nevertheless, J.R. Mortimer draws in those from Yorkshire too.

At the front entrance to the passage on ether side were located two hearths. Although broken white quartz was found all over the site, particularly at the entrance. Its commented this was a natural distribution. Between and in front of the hearths was a small mound that contained a cremation of an adult male, on its southern side. The ashes were mixed to some extent with stones and its been speculated the pit was lined with stone originally. This being a simple hollow in the earth without any indication of any funeral urn present. It was suggested by W.J. Hemp that connections with either ritual, or a ceremonial significance is probable with its relation to the sealing of the entrance.

Five postholes revealed carbonised pinewood set, within gravel that were positioned in an arch. Where its southern most appear to be on the centre axis of the monument ENE. It has been suggested that these postholes could have been incorporated with a wattle screen. On the side away from the main entrance was shallow clay bowl, into which an ox skeleton was located. Its head having been arranged in a manner as to face or look straight into the entrance of the chamber passage. It's commented that in the north of this burial, a line of uprights was located. A similar line of stones were also removed from the south side these appear to become problematic, as it was not on the same axis as the passage chamber.

At the rear of the chamber outside, within the area of the modern wall that holds back the raised mound. Originally located in this area below the soil was a stone slab tilted towards the north, but laid on its width to a north south axis. Under which was a pit, which had been hardened by fire? Hazel charcoal and a single burnt bone from the human ear were located. On top of which was two pieces of pebble sized jasper covered in purple clay. North of this was a patterned stone on purple clay, with signs of wedge stone located at its western end. This has led to suggestions it was upright at one time. If the site is visited today, a reproduction of the original carved stone now stands in an up right position, a few meters west of its original location.

Last updated 10/5/2008

Since researching this monument eight years ago several developments have occurred. It has been successfully argued by Francis Lynch on a re-evaluation of the archaeological record, the mound seen today is secondary, and a later monument which stands within a Henge stone circle where the decorative stone became its centre. The mound or passage grave became a later addition on this site.

Apart from the work undertaken by Sir Norman Locker published in 1908 concerning the second monument alignment with the Summer Solstice sunrise. This was later confirmed by Neil Baynes observations’ in 1910. The Solstice sunrise has been recently videoed and recorded 2 years ago by Steve Barrow.

Additional astronomical information attached is related to the planet of Venus, which has an eight year cycle. Venus appears as a morining star during a four year period, then asan evening star for the remainder.

Bibliography

Clayton P. 1976, Guide to Archaeology Sites in Britain, London
Banes N.E. 1910-11, 'The Megalithic Remains of Anglesey', in Trans. Society of Cymmrodorion pp. 3-93
Griffiths. J., 1908, 'Astronomical Archaeology in Wales' in Nature 1908, 78, 295
Hemp W.J., 1930, The Chambered Cairn of Bryn Celli Ddu, Society of Antiquities London
Hemp W.J., 1936, Cambernsis Archaeolgia, Vol. XCII pp. 345-6
Knight C and Lomas R., 1999, Uriel's Machine:Prehistoric Technology that survived the Flood, Century
Locker, N., 1908, 'Some Cromlechs in North Wales I', in Nature October 1908, 78, 633-635
Locker, N. 1908, 'Some Cromlechs in North Wales II', Nature 79, 9-11
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


Tags:
Bronze Age, Celts, Druids, Neolithic, Passage Grave, Stone Circle,
Filed under: