As part of the Bryn Celli Ddu public archaeology landscape project led by Cadw and Manchester Metropolitan University, archaeologists have today (19 June), released a new Minecraft world of the site, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic.
Who needs Google Street View when you can explore the renowned passage tomb via Minecraft? In a truly interactive twist on the virtual tour, the virtual version of Anglesey’s Bryn Celli Ddu will allow young people to explore one of the most impressive Neolithic burial monuments in the British Isles: a passage tomb, consisting of a stone-built passage into an artificial earth mound, which terminates in a burial chamber.
The passage tomb was used as a location for burial around 3000BC, but the site had a much longer history, and exists in a landscape replete with evidence for prehistoric ritual activity.
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.
Of absolutely central importance to the public archaeology project over the course of the last five years has been the involvement of the local community in all project research work. Every year, local volunteers have been part of the excavations; open days have taken place; along with school visits and museum exhibitions.
However, due to the coronavirus pandemic, the project was forced to cancel all excavation, survey and outreach work for the 2020 season. Whilst this was a great shame, it provided the opportunity for more imaginative ways of connecting people with the site’s prehistoric past.
Additionally, it is hoped that the new experience will offer people an alternative way to celebrate the summer solstice this year (20 June) — an annual occasion that normally attracts hundreds of visitors to the site to see a rare shaft of sunlight align with the burial mound passage and illuminate the chamber.
Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and in line with Welsh Government advice and guidance, Bryn Celli Ddu will remain closed this weekend, with all visitor access and summer solstice gatherings prohibited.
The new Bryn Celli Ddu Minecraft experience has now been made available by The Welsh Government, through its Hwb Cymru school’s portal, which provides free access for school children to the Education Edition of Minecraft. Schools across Wales, and the UK, can now download the world onto their Education Editions of Minecraft and allow pupils to access the experience.
The world takes the viewer on a journey through the Bryn Celli Ddu landscape, with its main passage tomb, the cairn cemetery, rock art panels and Neolithic house based on evidence at Llanfaethu.
The Minecraft Experience is available for all versions of Minecraft but check which one you are using before you download.
For teachers and school children with access to Minecraft Education Edition:
Click Here for the Cymraeg version
Click Here for the English version
For users of the commercial (paid-for) edition of Minecraft click here
Instructions for installing and using Minecraft Worlds is available here
More information on the Minecraft project is available on the Manchester Centre for Public History and Heritage website: here