News from Rupert Soskin: stone pillar is blueschist
I don't know whether Rupert Soskin posts here any more (if he does come on to discuss this I will delete this entry). I've just read this on the Facebook "Standing with Stones" page and, having not long since visited Bryn Celli Ddu, found it Very Interesting indeed.
This was the first site we visited on Sunday 31/5/2015. Easy access via quite a long path up to the burial chamber - to get to it involves crossing a small bridge and river, there was something about this that reminded me of Stoney Littleton. Anyway, suffice to say it lived up to expectations in spite of being extensively restored. The stone pillar was of course an enigma; the mysterious stone with spirals is in the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff - a day trip I can make from home soon to take a closer look (see photo of information board).
The midsummer solstice solar alignment is well documented on the interpretation board over in the small car park.
My penultimate CADW site.
Well sign posted; large car park and a level, information boards and a gravelled path leading direct to the site.
Nice and easy for a change!
Karen stayed in the car while Sophie and myself made the longer than expected walk (10 minutes) to the tomb.
As with nearly every site I visited on Anglesey this week we had the place to ourselves.
When seeing Bryn Celli Ddu for the first time it is an impressive sight – like a mini Maes Howe – without the need to pre-book a visit!
We first walked right around the Burial Chamber before entering from the far side.
During this walk I noticed a large stone in the next field – anything to do with the tomb?
Sophie was a little apprehensive at first but thought it was fun when I put her head light on. (This wasn’t really needed as it was fairly light inside)
The thing I was most interested in having a look at was the supposed ‘fossilised tree’ standing stone inside the chamber.
At first glance it just looked like a normal standing stone but the more I looked at it the more ‘tree-like’ it became.
The stone is very ‘trunk like’ – rounded like a pillar (or tree trunk!) and the side facing you does have ‘bark-like’ markings although the opposite side shows no such markings.
It would be fascinating to know if this is in fact a fossilised tree or not?
Either way, there was something I had never seen before in a Burial Chamber next to the standing stone – a Weegie Board!
On top of which as an ‘offering’ of a bunch of lavender (I think).
I wonder if they got a response?
It goes without saying that this is a ‘must see’ site.
Probably the best prehistoric site on Anglesey.
Those familiar with this great site will know all about it, but two things struck me this morning as I waited alone for daybreak - why the junk and vandalism and the mysterious 'Owl Stick'?
A piece of broken, candle-wax encrusted vase at the base of the mound and plastic bottles and mud-hand prints and dawbings across the concrete lintel (the modern unsympathetic strenghtening) inside the chamber.
Who placed the 'Owl Stick' in the top of the mound?
This is one of my favourite sites, but have not yet ventured over to view it from the gorsedd stone. As the farmer was already inhis fields tending to his flock in the breaking light I chose to walk around the other side of the gorsedd, down the lane towards his farm and got a great new perspective of the site.
Not going to go on about this place too much as it's one of my favourite places and it was one of my first megalithic trips , suffice to say I love it.
I love the passageway and the chamber stones, especially the menhir, I love the solar alignments and the stone of the enigma's albeit a fake one but it is now looking more aged than my first time.
There has been much talk of a spiral in side the chamber, but it is very indistinct and in my opinion it may not be a bonafide example of rockart. However the cupmarks on the nearby Gorsedd are distinct and easy to find, once you know they're there.
Brinkly doo as I know it is a sweetheart of mine anyone found messing with her will feel my wrath. (no really)
This was the other site with which Kate had seduced me, on a golden day in late October. It was just as beautiful this time round. The vibrant green mound stood out wonderfully against the cerulean blue sky, and commanded a stunning view of Eryri. The uprights and other stones at both sides of the mound were covered with the fluffy, frondy grey-green lichens seen at Trefignath. As ever, the menhir inside the mound just blew me away. I love Bryn Celli Ddu; it has the most wonderful energy and a low, thrumming magicalness. The other thing that thrummed was the back of my head, after I cracked it against the interior lintel – the type of blow to the skull that makes anyone else present want to throw up.
I noticed that some thoughtful people had left an offering to the Goddess on a stone ledge inside the chamber. Millennia ago, the Goddess was often honoured with a burnt sacrifice of a prized bull, a sheep or two, or a few goats - now she has to make do with a handful of peanuts, a wizened crab apple, and couple of torn Quality Street wrappers. Quality indeed.
A stunning grassy mound within a small henge, in all but proportion, just like the green sombrero of Maeshowe. Even my kids fell for its charms, not least because you can get inside and grub around. There's an intriguing standing stone inside the chamber, which must have been built around it. There are also two really nasty, ugly concrete lintels shoved in during restoration, which made me a bit cross. The ditch of the henge is, unusually, lined with large stones.
Visited with our eldest son close to sunset in January (wife sulking at being left in car with sleepy youngest). The sunset is splendid over the mound and a usually cynical seven year old showed a great interest in the site and standing watching the sunset with me.
Strangely he was also determined to go into the (very dark) chamber despite usually being very timid and unhappy in dark enclosed spaces - he led the way in and explored happily, and largely by touch. The sound of Dad walking hard into a (harder) stone in the chamber added to the sense of enjoyment and briefly led to a trance like (or is that stunned) state for me.
There obviously something about the place that a even a manic seven year old (and mildly concussed 30 something) can pick up, the sense of peace pervades - a perfect end to a day
The offerings of feathers and wild flowers show continued interest respect for the site. Not sure what the marking on the beam inside are about - we have our theory but could only see them clearly in the flash photo taken when leaving?
Bryn Celli Ddu just gets better and better with each return visit, although the small restored mound can look a little odd from certain angles....
Opposite the chambers entrance on the outer edge of the ditch are a number of small kerbstones. Excavation revealed them to be the remains of a stone and timber enclosure that contain the burial of an ox (see Rhiannon's Folklore entry below).
In many ways a fantastic site, but it seemed a bit processed to me somehow... Maybe it was the iron gate that had been added to the entrance for no apparent reason, or maybe it was just 'cos I saw so much good stuff beforehand (Bodowyr & Trefignath) that I got spoilt. Why move a bit of a monument to a museum? The original stone surely looks better in its own setting than in a glass case.
This is a religious site (circa 2000BC) from the latter Neolithic era, which was built during two different periods. To begin with, a "henge" was built, with a ditch and a circle of standing stones (still visible from behind the mound). After that, a chamber made of stones was added where the remains of the dead were buried. This chamber was accessible by a path beneath the mound.
Translation by a Welsh speaking friend I asked a favour of - David Lloyd (cool guy who runs a cool Welsh language record label - http://www.dockrad.com). Apologies for the plug, but it's kind of on-topic if you're interested in the 'language of heaven'.
I remember going here when I was a child, on a rainy holiday, crossing muddy fields to the chamber. Now a path has been place beside the stream that borders the field, and a wooden bridge crosses it. Inside the center of the chamber there is a standing stone, it is a beautiful thing, and you can imagine the chamber being placed around it. The passage way into the chamber is really atmospheric, with markings on the entrance. When I last went there someone had left five pence pieces and flowers inside the chamber.
Outside there is a ditch around the chamber. The original incribed stone has been replaced by a copy, the original lies in a museum now, what a shame.
In the field to the side of the chamber a standing stone is on a small knoll, looking over the chamber. It's a great place to visit, even though the grassy mound has been restored.
So excited by the sight of this mound from the road I ran all the way down the path to it, all the way round it, inside at a scramble only to be stopped dead in my tracks by the fantastic stone within reminding me to take it easy, take my time and enjoy this and all the surroundings at a more mellow pace. It stands like a sentinel, a unique presence as if an altar and the reason for the chamber and mound themselves. I paid my respects and left mellowed.
Each time I've visited this site its been such an experience. First time round bumped into a couple of students meditating the afternoon away inside whilst waiting for the ferry to Ireland! Second time around, when approaching the chamber along the new pathway and to the rear, my partner and I could make out voices coming from the direction of the mound. Upon venturing inside we expected to see other intrepid explorers but the place was absolutely empty! (Of living beings anyway)Weird!! In the right light (or with a torch) it is possible to see the exquisite patterns on the inner stones. The pananoramic views from the top of the mound of the surrounding area and Yr Wyddfa range are superb. A definite must see along with Barclodiad Y Gawres!!
I returned here to show a friend the site and this visit was even more rewarding than the last. What strikes me most with Bryn Celli Ddu is the mysterious stone, a remnant of the earlier stone circle, within the chamber - I've had dreams about it, and seeing it here again just knocks me out. The mound is nowhere near the size of the major Boyne Valley sites, but it is somehow reminiscent, and definitely every bit as stunning.
This site left us stunned, everything about it is perfect (apart from the reproduction stone). Within the monuments chamber stands a single monolith, adding an ambience I've never felt in a burial chamber before.
If you climb over the fence of the car park and walk into the field about half a mile away from the tomb there are three or four large rocky outcrops which are very comfortable to sit on and you can have an amazing panoramic view of Snodonia which form another piece of the complex landscape here. The bulls in the field were also quite scary at first when they circled me at a distance and blocked the way back to my tent but they turned out to be quite friendly after I decided to become a vegetarian. A white bull also stood by my tent in the morning and had a conversation with a horse in the morning when I got up. It is a sweet place to stay.
Family favorite... lost count of the number of times I have visited here, sneaking off from Bangor Uni or taking people here for picnics. I've even seen it from the air once, on a pleasure flight from Caernarfon air port. It's a perfect circle. What can be said?
The high light on 18/01/01 was meeting two old guys from Porthmadoc, who were both pretty clued up on the place, (and other sites in Snowdonia).
There has been a good car park built since I was last here (used to park on the verge) and a proper footpath. The farmer must have got pissed off with Pagans walking across his land at midnight on the solstices.
I always come away from here with a reasurance of our survial as a race, that we are still here, and that the Ancient ones are just with us all along the way. And I'm glad that there are folk out there who lovingly tend sites like this, be they archaeologists or visionaries (or both).
A magical site despite its renovation that receives too little attention in the MA in my opinion. I visited it last some five years ago with my 13 month old son and Helen my partner. We were both fascinated by its situation in geographical terms (Meni Straits and Snowdonia close by) and continuing social terms (the local primary school is very close and the children were coming out as we arrived giving the site a very active living atmosphere for some reason). The most significant discovery we made that I have not seen mentioned anywhere else is the stone pillar that stands in(side) the centre of the barrow. Presumably re-placed there in the restoration, it has a finished surface and one spectacular property. When struck this stone emitted a bell like tone, and as a musician I would say it was close to an e natural but this is really a guess. It reminded me of a Tibetan singing bowl that I own having a similar long "clean" resonance. I have seen a similar stone deep within in an obscure and difficult to access sacred cave in Northern Thailand. This however, is a stalagmite that rings like a bell when struck but was a similar shape and close to prehistoric (according to our guide) funeral remains (some stone coffins, there was also a small old Buddha in the darkness). The use of sound in ritual and consciousness expansion of course is commonplace and it seems likely that this was the function of both stones. I read a report of an article in antiquity by Paul Deveraux about the acoustics of the Carn Euny fougou suggesting that it resonated at the same frequency as the chanting of the male voice. The use of these spaces has been open to debate but the ritual function is by far the most likely of course and the modern investigator must try to envisage the range of techniques used to instigate trance and higher consciousness ecstatic states. All in all the area of acoustic research in mother holes and elsewhere is an avenue of enquiry that needs further investigation. I for one will be taking my Tibetan bowl with me to sites in the future and politely tapping any likely looking stones.
Whilst a farmer was removing some of the stones from the north east side of the larger carnedd to employ them in his repairs he came to the mouth of a passage covered with a square stone similar to that at Plas Newydd, anxious to reap the fruits of his discovery he procured a light and crept forward on his hands and knees along the dreary vault, when lo! in a chamber at the further end a figure in white seemed to forbid his approach.
The poor man had scarcely power sufficient to crawl backwards out of this den of spirits as he imagined however in the course of a few days instigated by the hopes of riches and the presence of many assistants he made his second entre into the cavern and finding the white gentleman did not offer to stir he boldly went forward and discovered the object of his apprehensions was no other than a stone pillar about six feet in height standing in the centre of the chamber.
His former consternation could now only be exceeded by his eagerness to see what was contained beneath the stone which he shortly overturned but treasure there was none, some large human bones lying near the pillar sufficiently testifying the purpose for which the structure was intended.
This is the substance of the account we received from the young man whose father was one of Colonel Peacock's labourers and on the premises at the time of the discovery. The superstition of the common people still suppose this to be the habitation of spirits.
Our two conductors seeming rather to compliment each other about precedence I took the lanthorn and [crawled in].. my companions followed close at my heels.
He then mentions a 'tribe of immense spiders who have reigned here unmolested for ages' so that's put me right off, far more than any talk of spirits.
From the fearless Rev. John Skinner's 'Ten Days' Tour through the Isle of Anglesey' (1804).
All images credited to 'W J Hemp' were added from a document entitled 'The Chambered Cairn of Bryn Celli Ddu' by W J Hemp FSA published in 1930, I presume after the digs in 1928/29. (misc post added for reference)
Whilst browsing round a second hand book store on the city walls of Chester, we found a book published in 1975 which showed a picture of Bryn Celli Ddu with the original outer stone in situ. This beautiful stone is hugely important to Bryn Celli Ddu.
We feel that the "stone" replica in its place absolutely takes away from this wonderful monument. Its whiteness grates with the rest of the site. Why is the original languishing in a museum in Cardiff where it is completely detached from its origins and therefore meaningless?
Wouldn't it be great if, within our lifetime, we could see the stone returned to its proper home.
The translation of the site's name may be the evocative 'Hill of the dark/black grove'. In common with many prehistoric sites, Bryn Celli Ddu stands near water - the Afon Braint (named after Brigantia?) and also near two Llwyn Onn s - (ash groves - how Welsh do you want! though apparently they're not planted with ashes any longer).
Excavations at the site have shown that before the present structure there was a bank with a standing stone(stones?) in the middle. Archaeologists found a series of large stones and a filled in hole, which they think may be the remains of a monolith and its socket - the toppling and destruction could have been symbolic in some way. Ronald Hutton suggests that the original henge may have been destroyed to build the passage grave on top of it "to pool the ritual force of both sorts of structure". He also describes (in 'Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles') how an ox sacrifice was deposited in a pit just in front of the entrance.
"Our new survey aimed to identify evidence for an external bank and to locate other unrecorded archaeological features within the scheduled area. Evidence for a bank would potentially inform understanding of the chrono-typological development of later Neolithic monuments across north-west Atlantic Europe, in Ireland, Wales and Scotland."
A BBC radio programme by Chris Dearden including an interview with Steve Burrow, the archaeologist who rediscovered the Summer Solstice alignment. Note the extremely lame 'footsteps' sound effect at the start.
There's also a video clip on the BBC web site from a news item, first broadcast on Summer Solstice 2006. Both of these clips require Real Player.