Carmarthenshire Cairn Reveals Links With Bronze Age Scotland

by Roz Tappenden Published: 17 February 2006

colour photo of two archaeologists digging the ground at the top of a picturesque hillside

The excavation took place in 2004. © Cambria Archaeology

New research on an excavated Bronze Age burial mound in south Wales has revealed links to funeral sites as far away as the Orkney Islands.

The burial mound on the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire was unearthed by Cambria Archaeology in 2004 after it was feared that the weather and visitors to the area were causing permanent damage to the site.

colour photograph of a hilly landscape and a clear blue sky

Fan Foel from Llanddeusant. © Cambria Archaeology

Archaeologists discovered a large rectangular stone cist at the centre of the mound containing the cremated bones of a young child, a pottery urn, a bone pin and several flint tools.

The cist also contained the cremated bones of two pigs and what is though to be a dog. Research revealed that second later burial took place at the site, which was added to the side of the mound.

colour photograph of an archaeologist leaning into a hole in the ground

Radiocarbon dating found the bones to be 4000-years-old. © Cambria Archaeology

New analysis on the soil surrounding the site, undertaken by the University of Lampeter, has identified microscopic pollen grains, indicating that the burial was accompanied by a floral tribute of meadowsweet.

The same burial rituals, with cremated bone, pottery and meadowsweet flowers in a stone cist, have been found as far away as Orkney and Perthshire in Scotland.

photograph of a discoloured broken pottery urn covered in mud

The pottery urn was unearthed in the excavation. © Cambria Archaeology

Adam Gwilt, curator of the Bronze and Iron Age Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru said: "It gives a tenderness to otherwise remote and impersonal burial rites."

The pollen analysis also revealed important information about the type of vegetation in the area 4000 years ago when Myddfai and Llanddeusant were dotted with small farming communities.

photograph of two people standing on the edge of a hill where there is a circle cut out of the grass revealing a circle of stones laying on the ground

The burial mound would have been visible to the scattered faming communities that once occupied the landscape. © Cambria Archaeology

Astrid Caseldine, of the University of Lampeter, said: "The landscape was already largely open heath land and grassland when the cairn was built, however, there was also evidence that the heath land had been deliberately burnt, which may represent ritual activity associated with the burials."