‘Wales’s answer to Stonehenge’ chosen for ‘rock art’ excavation

Monday 08 June 2015

Summer Solstice at Bryn Celli Ddu

Summer Solstice at Bryn Celli Ddu

The Neolithic passage tomb of Bryn Celli Ddu, located on the Isle of Anglesey, will host a two-week long community archaeology excavation, culminating in a public open day over a long-weekend in June (19-22).  

Bryn Celli Ddu is one of Wales’s best-known prehistoric monuments and has attracted the interest of archaeologists since the 18th century, resulting in a thorough programme of investigation by W. H. Hemp in the 1920s.

The excavation led by the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, Cadw, and Manchester Metropolitan University, will break new ground exploring the landscape’s fascinating ‘rock art’ – a term used in archaeology to describe the human-made markings discovered in natural stone.

Volunteers will join the two-week excavation starting on 9 June, working side by side with experienced archaeologists to search for clues of the site’s 6,000 year-old history.

Members of the public will also get a chance to experience a real life dig, when Bryn Celli Ddu plays host to an open day on Saturday 20 June, between 11am and 4pm. Visitors will get to meet the archaeologists in action and learn more about the art of the period, as well as finding out more about how the passages of the ancient tomb were built in relation to the movement of the sun and stars thousands of years ago.

There will also be the opportunity for visitors to take part in Neolithic crafts such as flint knapping, rock art workshops and pottery classes.

Schoolchildren from Communities First areas on Anglesey will also get involved, as part of a special schools-only event the day before (19 June).

Bryn Celli Ddu is among the most remarkable passage tombs in Europe. The purpose of the dig is to endeavour to find out more about the people who built the tomb and carved the rock next to it, as well as gather evidence of the tool used to create the rock art in the immediate landscape. The tool was reputed to have been quartz, which was found in the original excavation by W. H. Hemp in the 1920s around the main Bryn Celli Du mound.

The site’s new ‘Artist in Residence’, Angela Davies, will be working at the site with Community First groups during the fortnight to document and unravel the artistic mysteries of the passage tomb and landscape of Anglesey. Her work will explore the use of quartz and the results of her research will be on show to visitors at the Open Day on 20 June.

Ken Skates, Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport & Tourism, added: “Stonehenge attracts more than 30,000 visitors a year. There is clearly an appetite for celebration of the Neolithic, and Wales has an opportunity to tap into this and engage a new audience interested in our spiritual heritage through sites like Bryn Celli Ddu.  

“Combining a monument’s rich past with the arts with events like this help to open up the sites for more people to enjoy and bring Welsh heritage and history to life in a memorable way.”

Cadw is encouraging visitors to Bryn Celli Ddu over the three-day celebration to upload their site pictures to the Heritage Together website. A specialist team will use the bank of images to produce 3D models of the monument to feature online.

Public event:
The archaeological open day (20 June, 11am – 4pm) is free to attend, and no booking is required.