Home >

Pant y Butler Round Barrows 2010 Dig Diary


The burnt plank on the top of the larger barrow

Two round barrows at Pant y Butler near Cardigan were surveyed in 2008. The barrows are under an intensive arable regime and survive only to a maximum of 0.5m. The geophysical survey showed that substantial below ground remains are likely to survive, and that in addition to the two barrows three other possible barrows were detected.

In September 2009, trial excavations took place on the two upstanding round barrows. Very little survived of the smaller of the two barrows, although a central grave was located and excavated. This contained a cremation burial with no grave goods. It is likely that this grave had disturbed an earlier burial as burnt bone, charcoal and sherds of a presumed Bronze Age urn were scattered in and over it. What little survived of this barrow suggests that it was a cairn rather than an earthen mound. The central grave of the larger barrow was not located. This barrow survived up to 0.5m high and 15-18m diameter and was built of earth, mainly turf, but with a little stone. A feature on the top of the surviving mound seemed to be burnt plank in a stone setting. A stone-filled pit close by is likely to be modern, and possibly represents an antiquarian excavation conducted when the barrow stood to a far greater height. Other possible round barrows located during the geophysical survey proved to be geological in origin.

During September 2010 the larger of the two barrows will be completely excavated.


Dig Diary Pant y Butler 2009

Removal of topsoil

Day 1 - 3rd September 2010

A bright, warm day. Machine removal of topsoil and the top of the barrow. What may be the remains of a stone kerb around the barrow was revealed. A large stone-filled pit could be a secondary grave.


Hubert and Paul struggling in the wet conditions


Day 2 - 6th September 2010

The first day for volunteers, and a very wet day. Not much was achieved and work finished early.


The site in the rain


Day 3 - 7th September 2010

A second wet day with work finishing early. Some cleaning of the site was possible in the morning before heavy rain moved in.


Progress being made in the wet conditions of the morning

The excavation team cleaning over the site


Day 4 - 8th September 2010

The site was still very wet, but good progress was made in cleaning. The large central stone-filled pit looked more like a recent feature, perhaps the result of excavations by an antiquary.


Good progress being made in the good weather

The cleaned site with the kerb, concentric turf ring and central stone-filled pit visible


Day 5 - 9th September 2010

A fine day enabled the site to be fully cleaned. It is possible that the barrow is of two phases, with a smaller barrow defined by a kerb of large stones. A concentric band of turf outside the kerb suggests an earlier phase or an earthern ring around the main mound.


Linda started to excavate the central stone-filled pit


Day 6 - 11th September 2010

The lower remains of the barrow were removed down to the buried soil in selected areas. Excavation of the central stone-filled pit revealed dispersed burnt bone and charcoal probably from a disturbed cremation burial. Below the upper loose stones were larger stones set around the edge of the pit suggesting that it could be an undisturbed prehistoric grave.


Removing the buried soil beneath the barrow

A charcoal deposit resting on buried soil, which is cut through by the stone-filled pit. Note the boulder beginning to emerge in the pit.

Excavating the stone-filled pit


Day 7 - 13 September 2010

Progress was made on removing the buried soil in selected areas below the barrow and on the central stone-filled pit during another day of heavy rain. The stone-filled pit is looking more like an undisturbed grave. It contains a massive water-worn boulder.


The partially cleaned stone-filled pit showing the basal dark soil deposit


Day 8 - 14 September 2010

Little progress was achieved during another wet day, and work finished early.

Paul and Andy cleaning the buried soil adjacent to the stone-filled pit

The partially excavated stone-filled pit

Another view of the stone-filled pit showing charcoal deposits resting on the buried soil

The digging team enjoying rare sunshine


Day 9 - 15 September 2010

Work continued excavating the central stone-filled pit and on cleaning the buried soil beneath the barrow. A number of charcoal deposits have been revealed resting on the buried soil, but as yet no evidence for pits or other features cut into the buried soil.


Hubert recording the stone kerb to the barrow

Further cleaning of the buried soil around the stone-filled pit


Day 10 - 16 September 2010

Further cleaning of the buried soil and recording was possible on this a second consecutive dry day.


Sampling the stone-filled pit for later analyses

Pits/postholes revealed after removal of buried turf


Day 11 - 17 September 2010

The large stone-filled pit is now almost certainly an undisturbed grave pit. As yet no direct evidence for a burial. Samples were taken for phosphate and other analyses. Removal of the turf over the buried soil revealed what seemed to be a series of shallow pits or postholes; these need further investigation.


Cleaning the site

The area around the central stone-filled pit


Day 12 - 18 September 2010

A day of cleaning and further removal of turf over buried soil.


The pits/postholes beneath the buried turf


Day 13 - 19 September 2010

Sunday – a quiet day. The opportunity was taken to do recording and cleaning.


Taking samples and recording


Day 14 - 20 September 2010

Numerous environmental samples were taken for later analysis, and removal of buried soil continued.

Excavating the stone-filled pit

Cleaning the burnt plank by the stone-filled pit

The cleaned burnt plank

Ploughing around the site started in preparation for sowing next week


Day 15 - 21 September 2010

What seemed to be a charred plank of wood resting on buried soil next to the stone-filled pit was sampled and removed. More of the stone-filled pit was excavated. There are only two more days of excavation to finish the excavation of this pit and the rest of the site.


Excavating the burial pit

The burial pit with the top of the cremation visible


Day 16 - 22 September 2010

Work continued on excavating the large stone-filled pit, which was now clearly a burial pit as the top part of a cremation burial was uncovered.



The cremation burial

Lifting the cremation burial

Some of the stone beads

Improvised protection from a heavy shower during the final stages of lifting the cremation

The cleaned out burial pit. The large stone will be removed tomorrow


Day 17 - 23 September 2010

The cremation was confined to a small and well defined area of the pit, probably as it had been placed in a basket or other organic container. The bone was incompletely burnt and consequently soft and mushy. It was therefore lifted in as complete sections as possible for later excavation in the laboratory. During lifting it became apparent that numerous stone beads were mixed in with the bone. Most were small discs, but at least one was triangular and made of jet. Others may also be of jet. The boulder at the end of the pit is an earlier feature, and may be related to an original burial.



The large stone

Investigating the hollow beneath the stone

The site during back-filling

Day 18 - 24 September 2010

The large stone was moved and the pit/hollow beneath it investigated. Nothing of interest was present. It was unclear whether the stone would have stood upright - as small standing stone - and was pushed over prior to mound construction or whether is was placed flat on the ground. Finally, the site was back-filled in preparation for ploughing and sowing.






[click for navigation menu if not present]