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THE EXCAVATION OF TWO PREHISTORIC BURIAL MOUNDS AT
PANT Y BUTLER, LLANGOEDMOR, NEAR CARDIGAN

Two round barrows (burial mounds) lie on a ridge at 130m above sea level. The barrows lie 50m apart. The northern barrow (55928) is quite distinct, surviving up to 35m-45m in diameter and 0.75m high, but the southern one (55929) has almost disappeared and is approximately 30m diameter and just 0.2m high. Both are regularly ploughed, with spreads of stone highlighting their positions.

A geophysical survey in 2008 detected a c.20m diameter ditch around the northern barrow, as well possible pits and graves and indications the mound may be of more than one phase of construction. Only a hint of a ditch, c.11m diameter, was recorded around the southern barrow, but a possible central grave was detected. Several circular ditches to the north and west of the northern barrow may be the remains of smaller, flattened burial mounds.

The intention in 2009 is to characterise the archaeology of the two mounds and associated feature and assess their potential. This will be done in late September with the assistance of a group of enthusiastic local volunteers.


General Photo – Looking northeast with the southern round barrow marked by a stone spread in the foreground. A similar spread marks the e northern barrow in the middle ground.

 


Topographic survey with superimposed geophysical data showing the location of the two round barrows and other features

 



Starting the first trench cutting over the larger barrow


Continuing excavation over the larger barrow


The trench cut to examine features detected in the geophysical survey


The trench over the smaller barrow showing how little of it survives

Day 1 - 18 September 2009

Three trenches were opened. A cross trench over the larger barrow (55928) showed that it may survive up to 1m high and 25m diameter. The cross trench over the smaller barrow (55929) revealed that little of it seemed to survive, but that it may have a central stone-built cist. A third trench was opened to examine possible features revealed on the geophysical survey.

 

 

 


Felicity and Vanessa cleaning the trench over the smaller barrow


Hubert and Ann starting work on the trench over the larger barrow

Day 2 - 21 September 2009

About 10 local volunteers participated on the first day of the excavation. The possible cist in the smaller barrow was just loose stone – indeed all the stone later forming this barrow had been disturbed by ploughing and was removed down to the underlying buried soil. Fragments of cremated bone were revealed during this process. Cleaning of the trenches on the larger barrow started.

 

 

 

 


The base of the smaller barrow survives in front of Will and Felicity. Will is holding some of the cremated bone found here.


Paul working on the trench across the centre of the smaller barrow, with the buried soil beneath the former mound the dark stain in the centre.


Hubert and Betty on the top of the larger mound. Note the circular stone feature and the burnt plank.


Another view of the top of the larger mound.

 

Day 3 - 22 September 2009

Remains of the base of the mound of the smaller barrow was found to survive, but was very fragmentary. A small spread of up-cast, shattered shale in the base of the mound suggests that a burial pit may be found nearby. More burnt bone confirmed a dispersed cremation in the mound.

Cleaning over the larger barrow revealed a circular spread of stone – possibly a small cairn built on the top of the mound – next to which was a what appeared to be a carbonised plank in a long cist. Excavation will continue on these tomorrow.

 

 

 

 


The smaller barrow, showing how little of it survives


Will and Felicity removed the base of the smaller barrow


Martin cleaning the stone spread on the top of the larger barrow


The stone spread on the top of the larger barrow

Day 4 - 23 September 2009

This was a day of cleaning and photography in preparation for excavation.

The remains of the mound of the small barrow were planned and photographed and excavation of them started.

The stone spread on the top of the large mound was cleaned and photographed. It will be planned tomorrow and excavation of it started.



 

 

 


Will excavating the central grave of the smaller barrow.


Tim excavating the cairn in the larger barrow.

Day 5 – 24 September 2009

The central grave pit of the smaller barrow was located, and excavation of it started. Burnt bone in the upper fill of the pit indicates that a cremation had been scattered over the top of the pit. Part of the pit lies outside the excavation trench; topsoil over this area will be removed tomorrow.

Excavation on the larger barrow showed that the spread of stone on the surface is probably the top of a cairn that was encased by the earthern barrow. A lot of earth will have to be removed to reveal this cairn.

 

 


 

 

 


Paul and Will extending the trench over the smaller barrow to reveal the rest of the central grave.


The large barrow showing its extent after the removal of the silty layer surrounding it. Tim, foreground, is at the base of the barrow and Annie, middleground, on the top of the barrow.

Day 6 - 25 September 2009

A possible cremation was found in the grave pit of the smaller barrow. The pit was, however, much larger than expected, and work started on extending the trench to reveal its full extent.

On the larger barrow the earlier assumption that the spread of stone was the top of a cairn was shown to be incorrect, and that it is in fact the base of a cairn built on top of the barrow. Removal of the earthern barrow showed it to be made of turf and topsoil. What seems to be a small standing stone has been encased in the barrow.


 

 


 

 

 


Hubert cleaning over the exposed grave of the smaller barrow.


Ruth and Silke removing the stone on the larger barrow.

Day 7 – 27 September 2009

Sunday - a quiet day with just a few people working on site. The grave in the smaller barrow was completely exposed ready for excavation. On the large barrow the work started on removing the stone spread on top of the barrow.

 


 

 


 

 

 


Barry excavating the ditch containing the perforated stone.


A close up of the perforated stone.

Day 8 – 28 September 2009

Work continued on excavating the grave under the smaller barrow, with more bone and more sherds of Bronze Age pottery found.

On the larger barrow work concentrated on excavating a section through the mound to reveal the prehistoric soil that survives beneath it. Two small ditches were discovered outside the mound. It was not possible in such a small trench to determine whether these are concentric to the mound or not. A rounded, perforated stone was found on the edge of one of these ditches.

 

 


 

 


 

 

 


Felicity and Paul excavating the grave beneath the smaller barrow.


The larger barrow showing the possible ditch beneath the prehistoric soil.

 

Day 9 – 29 September 2009

More cremated bone and sherds of Bronze Age pottery were found during excavation of the upper fills of the grave beneath the smaller barrow. At the end of the day the primary cremation on the bottom of the pit was beginning to be revealed.

On the larger barrow the prehistoric soil beneath the barrow was removed revealing what seemed to be two sides of a concentric ditch. This ditch lay beneath both the prehistoric turf and soil, suggesting a considerable time lapse between the silting of the ditches and the construction of the barrow.

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 


The primary cremation beneath the smaller barrow.


Sikko, Annie and Sue excavating the larger barrow. Sikko is excavating one of the ditches.

Day 10 – 30 September 2009

The primary grave beneath the smaller barrow was a simple cremation. The dense concentration of burnt bone suggesting the cremation had been placed in a bag, basket or box.

The apparently large ditches beneath the larger barrow turned out to be just a few centimetres deep. A possible small, charcoal filled pit was revealed beneath the prehistoric soil towards the centre of the barrow.

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 


The grave below the smaller barrow. Note the earlier, unexcavated pit to the left.


Excavating the larger barrow.


Annie in the grave.

 

Day 11 - 1 October 2009

The grave beneath the smaller barrow was emptied. To the side of this grave an earlier, smaller pit has been noted; this will be excavated tomorrow.

The possible pit beneath the larger barrow was found to be a charcoal-rich stain. The mound of the barrow is, however, turning out to be more complex than first thought. Excavation will continue.

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 


The possible stone filled ‘robbing’ pit in the larger barrow.


Members of the excavation team watching Paul and Hubert excavate.

 

Day 12 - 2 October 2009

Today was mostly taken up with recording – drawing, written records and photography. In the larger barrow a deposit of large stones may indicate that the barrow has been ‘robbed’ in the recent past, although this is far from clear. Unfortunately it will not be possible to demonstrate this due to time running out.

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 


Paul cleaning over the early pit beneath the smaller barrow.


A section through the early pit.

 

Day 13 - 4 October 2009

A day of section drawing and planning of the larger barrow. The early pit beneath the smaller barrow was excavated. This turned out to be filled with charcoal, burnt stone and soil and a little burnt bone – a partial cremation.

 

 

 

 


 

 


 

 

 


Backfilling the site.

 

Day 14 – 5 October 2009

This, the final day, consisted of taking final samples, finishing off the recording and backfilling the site. Much work needs to be done – analysing soil samples and obtaining radiocarbon dates – before the site reveals all its secrets; this work will be done over the next year or so.

Finally, all who were involved with the excavation would like to thank David and Lynette George for allowing the excavation on their farm.


 

 

 

 

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