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Graig-ddu, Black Mountains

Round Cairn

<b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by thesweetcheatImage © A. Brookes (18.8.2018)
Also known as:
  • Graig Ddu (Crucorney)

Nearest Town:Crickhowell (10km SSW)
OS Ref (GB):   SO28452645 / Sheet: 161
Latitude:51° 55' 53.27" N
Longitude:   3° 2' 26.74" W

Added by GLADMAN

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<b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by thesweetcheat <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN <b>Graig-ddu, Black Mountains</b>Posted by GLADMAN


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This shattered cairn, the eastern-most of a triumvirate of such Bronze Age upland monuments sited to the approx south-east of the Ffawddog Ridge of the eastern Black Mountains, would appear - from the map, at least - to offer a credible approach from most points of the compass (which, of course, any prospective TMA Citizen Cairn'd will be tightly clasping within a hand clammy with anticipation, if not soaked through courtesy of the borderland precipitation not exactly unknown in these parts!). The most direct route is probably that from Llanthony via Troed rhiw-mon, a public footpath rising above the southern bank of the stream cascading through Cwm Bwchel.... however having 'taken in' the Cwm Bwchel cairn earlier on in the day I approach from the summit of Bal Mawr, that is from the west across trackless heather. I've experienced worse, however, as will have everyone who has ever gone stone hunting in Mid Wales. Needless to say the direct route, although steep in places, proves invaluable during a descent in fading light later on in the day.

The monument, located below and to the south of the summit of the hill, is unfortunately in a sorry state of repair.... Coflein reports of an excavation-cum-ransacking of the cairn - incidentally resulting in the discovery of 'bone fragments and pottery sherds' from a centrally placed cist - no doubt tell us all we need to know in this respect. Hey, at least we know for certain this cairn was - hell, is - the real thing. That doesn't happen very often, to be fair.... to be 100% sure is pretty unusual. In addition, the shattered remains of the cist, as with the monument's neighbour to the north-west, remain in situ. This means a lot. One of the orthostats is split longitudinally, the cleft of such precision as to render the result an enduring testament to the incredible natural forces inherent in the action of ice upon rock. Exquisite....

So, once again.... here we have an upland Bronze Age cairn - albeit one ravaged by 'excavation' - still retaining vestiges of original internal features simply because it lies 'off the beaten track', away from the predictable wanderings and destructive tendencies of yer average hillwalking punter. The realisation, at first overwhelmingly positive, leaves a bitter aftertaste. How much more of our Bronze Age heritage would still remain if only ignorant ramblers could keep their vandalising hands to themselves and not indulge in erecting pointless 'storm shelters'. A rhetorical question, naturally.

The Graig-ddu cairn, though similar in many respects to its counterpart beyond Cwm Bwchel, certainly trumps it when it comes to on site panoramas. Whereas the latter stands in insularity, apparently focussed upon Bal Mawr, Graig-ddu overlooks a classic vista, the glorious southern skyline featuring the distinctive profiles of Mynydd Pen-y-Fal (aka The Sugar Loaf) and the sacred-hill-cum-hillfort of Ysgyryd Fawr, with the mighty Iron Age fortress of Twyn y Gaer rising between. The great promontory fort upon Hatterrall Hill fills the horizon to the south-east, the ridge to the south-west duly crowned by the (apparently) massive Bronze Age cairn of Garn Wen, the third of the triumvirate. It is truly a classic spot, much better than I supposed and worthy of much more time than the cycles of Nature will allow. Sadly I ascend to the summit and subsequently begin the descent to Llanthony, pausing by some grouse butts to enjoy a truly monumental, mind blowing view of the Vale of Ewyas. Suffice to say the irony, being privy to such natural wonder whilst perched upon the haunts of... er... 'individuals' who enjoy killing for pleasure, is not lost on me.
16th March 2013ce
Edited 10th February 2014ce


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CPAT description with excavation details:
An excavated round barrow cist which is circular in form with quite steeply sloping sides and a depressed interior. The mound's perimeter is well defined although no kerbstones or ditch was visible. The sides of the mound are under turf, whilst the levelled interior exposes stone. A large sandstone slab, aligned E-W, dominates the central S area of the cairn's interior. This is presumably the remains of the cist excavated by Jones (1981); the upper most edge of this slab is all that is now exposed.

Dimensions: diameter 15.2m; height 1.2m-1.4m
(1981) A cairn 15.5m diameter, c.1.5m high with a large cist at the centre was examined. Small particles of bone and a few potshereds were found in soil in the cist, and further sherds, the rim of a large vessel with incised decoration and a barbed and tanged arrowhead were found on the cairn floor. There was no evidence of a kerb.

(1981) EXCAVATION: The removal of the part-fill of loose boulders together with C20th rubbish revealed an irregular layer of dark brown soil slopping down towards the E end. Progressive trowelling revealed no stratification, the soil being of a disturbed nature and containing burned bracken and some broken glass similar to that associated with the boulder deposits. However, there was a firmer area of soil in the angle between the easternmost orthostat and the boulder clay on which the cist had been constructed. In this undisturbed material the first and largest pottery sherd, a piece of the rim of a large, decorated, vessel was discovered. Scattered in a random manner and near the first find were other small fragments of pottery together with several fragments of bone. A tanged and barbed arrow head and other small flint flakes and artifacts also appeared in a scatter across this area.

The Cist had been constructed from sandstone slabs. The S orthostat measured 1.86m in length, 1.2m deep and was 0.075m in thickness, being set into the ground so that its upper edge was almost exactly horizontal. The N slab was 1.56m, 0.87m deep and 0.075m thick. Both these main orthostats were orientated generally E-W. Slots had been cut into the original boulder clay surface and the orthostats were held upright with small stones and earth packing. The smaller E and W slabs were not so deep set and were given additional support by small stones placed within the cist. The N orthostat had cracked under lateral pressure while that at the W end was incomplete and badly damaged. A matching portion of this slab was found lying within the cist.

All the indications were of a robbed burial, impression futher strengthened by finds made outside the cist itself and at its E end. At this point an area of the cairn boulders were cleared so that any pattern of construction could be investigated. Although the cairn proved to have been made of randomly placed boulders at this point, on the original ground surface and in close proximity to one another, were five small sherds of pottery. The loose nature of the cairn boulders would have allowed such small fragments of pottery to have percolated downwards had they been placed on the edge of the cist by the original robbers.
thesweetcheat Posted by thesweetcheat
18th August 2018ce

Not shown on the OS 1:50K map, this mutilated cairn, set upon the southern flank of Graig-ddu, is nevertheless well worth seeking out if lonely, upland sites are your thang..... not only for the sublime views, but also for the shattered remnants of a cist matching those within the Cwm Bwchel cairn to the north. No doubt about this one, then.

According to Coflein:

'A round cairn, 15m in diameter and 1.5m high, having a central cist, which has produced bone fragments and pottery sherds. (source Os495card; SO22NE14) J.Wiles 04.03.03'.
6th March 2013ce
Edited 6th March 2013ce