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Standing Stone / Menhir


From Welsh Rock Art Organisation website.

Llanfechell (East) Standing Stone (NGR SH 370 916)
Following the recent collapse of a standing stone (or menhir) at Llanfechell, near Cemaes, north Anglesey in late 2009, researchers have been given a rare insight into the symbolic nature of standings stones, one of Western Britain's most enigmatic monument types. The fallen stone was probably the result of a combination of long-term inclement Welsh weather and cattle-rubbing.

This Scheduled Monument (SAM An 80, PRN 3048) site is set within a busy prehistoric landscape that also includes the Cromlech Dolmen (ANG 15), a series of standing stones (including the triangular setting of three stones at Llanfechell [NGR SH364917]) and recently discovered cupmarks on rock-outcropping (Nash et al. 2005). The standing stone, according to Cadw would have stood around 2m in height, with a further 0.50m buried and incorporated into a set of packing stones.

Following its collapse in 2009, Cadw requested Gwynedd Archaeological Trust (GAT), the regional monitoring authority to re-erect the stone, all 4.6 tons of it (Smith & Hopewell 2011)! In January 2010, the stone was moved from its prostrate position in order that the socket hole and the immediate area could be archaeologically investigated; initially by geophysical survey (by David Hopewell), then followed by targeted excavation (by George Smith). The excavation revealed at least 20 packing stones within the socket pit. On one of the faces of a large packing stone measuring approximately 0.80 x 0.95 x 0.50 m was a pecked cup-and-ring and a single cupmark. The cup-and-ring, measuring c. 10cm in diameter is probably the first recorded in North Wales and can therefore be considered an important discovery. Previously, the nearest cup-and-ring carvings were to be found at the Calderstones monument in Calderstone Park, Liverpool and on the base of the Robin Hood's Stone, a standing stone located several kilometers to the south-west of the Calderstones. Located on the same face is a single cupmark which is oval shaped, measuring c. 0.80m by 0.3.5cm.

As part of the research agenda, Ben Stern (University of Bradford) undertook organic residue analysis from within the engraved areas in order to test the possibility of the engraved areas being once painted, however the results were negative (no lipids found within the two samples taken).

The reason why a stone with a cup-and-ring (and cupmark) should be buried within a packing features for a standing stone is unclear, however there are a number of plausible reasons why such a potent symbol might be buried. It could be the case that the stone [fragment] (with the cup-and-ring) originates from another monument and this may have stood on the site; becoming redundant, later destroyed and pieces of it incorporated into construction of a new monument (i.e. the standing stone). It could be the case that the new stone may have represented a new ritualised ideology (e.g. similar to the fate of a 10m menhir with rock art which appears to have been deliberately broken-up and incorporated into three Brittany passage graves). Alternatively, it may be that in order to legitimise the standing stone, a decorated stone fragment was buried during a ceremony associated with either the initial use of the monument or it may have an association with a pit that lay beneath the packing stones. The pit at Llanfechell contained a dark humic soil with charcoal which may relate to an offering or some form of feasting event, prior to the erection of the standing stone. The date of this sub-surface activity is however difficult to ascertain, possibly associated with Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age ritual activity. Despite this speculation, the GAT team have retrieved one radiocarbon date of around 400-700 BCE from carbonised material which is much later than the expected date for the use of the monument. However, similar to other monuments of this type in Wales, there is more than one history attached.

The standing stone (minus the cup-and-ring packing stone) was re-erected in September 2010, whilst the engraved packing stone was placed in the care of Oriel Ynys Môn (museum). The cup-and-ring and single cupmark is carved on a laminated Protozoic mica schist.
blossom Posted by blossom
8th July 2011ce
Edited 8th July 2011ce

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