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Bryn Celli Ddu on Anglesey

11 Jun 2019
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Hidden in the soil: Digging reveals new insights of long-lost site in Bryn Celli Ddu landscape.

Bryn Celli Ddu

Bryn Celli Ddu. Image: Adam Stanford Aerial Cam.

Archaeologists return to uncover a prehistoric ritual landscape that includes a Bronze Age cairn, potentially larger than its famous neighbour Bryn Celli Ddu, a 5,000-year-old passage tomb aligned with the summer solstice sunrise on Anglesey. 

The famous Welsh passage tomb might not be as recognisable as Stonehenge, but it possesses a similar alignment where the stones line up with the sun on the longest day of summer. By building the long passage at Bryn Celli Ddu, the sun can creep along it into the far reaches of the inner chamber, an atmospheric moment that many never forget. 

Bryn Celli Ddu in 2018. Image: Adam Stanford Aerial Cam.

Excavation now suggests that the site had significance for prehistoric people that lasted for millennia after the earth mound was raised over a stone passage chamber.

The monument has an evocative Welsh name, which translates as 'The Mound in the Dark Grove' and was first excavated in 1865 and then completely reconstructed in the 1920s, but excavations over the last five summers - with members of the public joining archaeologists - have uncovered a rich landscape of archaeological remains, covering more than 5,000 years of human activity. 

Bryn Celli Ddu

Bryn Celli Ddu. Image: Adam Stanford Aerial Cam.

The work has uncovered 12 examples of rock art carvings, all in the landscape around Bryn Celli Ddu, along with a pit filled with pottery and worked stone tools. 

Article continues below

Excavations this year continue to uncover evidence of a long-lost prehistoric burial cairn just meters away from Bryn Celli Ddu, as archaeologists peel back the layers to reveal the monument. Radiocarbon dating has given a date of 1,900 BC, with finds of flint tools and a double kerb of large stones, some of them weighing over a tonne each.  

Pupils from local primary school Llanddaniel Fab and several others from across Anglesey have been given special access to the site learning about life in their area 5,000 years ago.

Bryn Celli Ddu

Excavations at Bryn Celli Ddu. Image: Adam Stanford Aerial Cam.

Through a series of talks and workshops by on-site archaeologists, as well as witnessing first-hand the discovery of artefacts, it is hoped that the pupils come away from the experience with a deeper understanding and appreciation of their local history as a result of the project.

Excavations at Bryn Celli Ddu

An event at Bryn Celli Ddu in 2018. Image: Adam Stanford Aerial Cam.

Artists are also taking part and responding to Bryn Celli Ddu in new ways. John Abell, a Welsh prizewinning printmaker and artist, is working to create new woodcut prints. Abell's distinctive motifs, intertwining fact with folk memory has a persuasive sense of storytelling, bringing the past and present alive using a beguiling visual language.

The project is keen to offer those with an interest in history the opportunity to learn more about the archaeology of the island and have arranged a series of events to coincide with the project. The dig will run from 8 June to 7 July.

Bryn Celli Ddu

Last summer at Bryn Celli Ddu. Image: Adam Stanford Aerial Cam.

Minister for Culture, Tourism and Sport, Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas, said: "During Wales's Year of Discovery, we continue to develop new ways of engaging the people of Wales and beyond with our country's rich heritage. Hosting this excavation and events at Bryn Celli Ddu is an excellent way to encourage a deeper understanding of one of Wales's most impressive prehistoric sites. I hope that local people and visitors alike will be inspired to explore Bryn Celli Ddu this summer, find out about the new archaeological results, and make the most of the free activities and events taking place this June." 

The Bryn Celli Ddu landscape project is led by the Welsh Government?s historic environment service, Cadw, University of Central Lancashire and Manchester Met University, along with members of the local community and archaeology students.

Bryn Celli Ddu

Events Listing

At Bryn Celli Ddu

21 June, 11.00pm at Bryn Celli Ddu
Bryn Celli Ddu, Llanddaniel Fab, LL61 6EQ
Stargazing at Bryn Celli Ddu
Tickets available from Eventbrite
£10 a ticket. To book:

22 June, 11am - 4pm at Bryn Celli Ddu
Bryn Celli Ddu, Llanddaniel Fab, LL61 6EQ
Open Day at Bryn Celli Ddu, with onsite tours of excavation and prehistoric living history
Free entry, all welcome

At Oriel Môn

21 June, 6.30pm at Oriel Môn
Oriel Môn, Llangefni, Anglesey, LL77 7TQ 
Public lecture by Professor Mike Parker Pearson: 'Stonehenge and Wales'
Free, tickets available from Oriel Môn on 01248 724444

22 June, 11am - 4pm at Oriel Môn
Oriel Môn, Llangefni, Anglesey, LL77 7TQ 
Open Day at Oriel Môn with displays and activities
Free entry, all welcome

On until the 23 June at Oriel Môn
Oriel Môn, Llangefni, Anglesey, LL77 7TQ 
Archaeological Discoveries Exhibition 
Free entry, all welcome



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