New Bronze Age cairn complex found on Anglesey

22 June 2017

UCLan archaeology academic among team which has made a new discovery

Archaeologists from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) and Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) have discovered a series of Late Neolithic to Early Bronze Age cairns while on a dig in Wales.

The experts found the cairns along a ridge behind Bryn Celli Ddu, on the island of Anglesey, while working on the Bryn Celli Ddu landscape project.

Bryn Celli Ddu, or the ‘Mound in the Dark Grove’, is a Late Neolithic passage tomb dating to around 5,000 years ago, located in North West Wales. It has a special feature, which means that on the longest day of the year, a beam of light is cast down the passage, lighting up the chamber. It is one of the most evocative monuments in Wales, and over the last three years a public archaeology project has grown around it.

This year’s archaeological excavation started on 11 June and continues until 24 June, when the focus has been on a series of circular anomalies brought to light by conducting a geophysical survey over a field located immediately behind Bryn Celli Ddu.

"We knew this would be a good project but it’s turning out to be very exciting."

Dr Seren Griffiths, from UCLan, said: “We know that Bryn Celli Ddu sits in a much more complicated landscape that previously thought. Over the last three years, we have discovered 10 new rock art panels, and this year the picture has developed to include further evidence for a new Bronze Age cairn along with a cluster of prehistoric pits.

“We have evidence for over 5,000 years’ worth of human activity in the landscape, ranging from worked flint derived from the tool making efforts of our prehistoric ancestors to prehistoric burial cairns and pits with pottery deposited within.”

Dr Ben Edwards, from MMU, added: “The geophysical survey, combined with innovative digital modelling, has raised the possibility of a cairn cemetery surrounding the original monument, something never suspected before.”

Over the two weeks, the excavation has host hundreds of school children alongside youth groups and the general public. It is led by academics from UCLan, MMU, and Cadw, the historic environment service for the Welsh Government.

On 17 June there was a free public open day, welcoming over 750 people to view the site and to take a tour of the open trenches. Dr Ffion Reynolds, from Cadw, said: “Since we started the project we have discovered that Bryn Celli Ddu was never in isolation, there was activity happening all around. We knew this would be a good project but it’s turning out to be very exciting.”

As part of the project, a new CGI film of Bryn Celli Ddu was released at the beginning of the excavation.