We have now finished our first week at St Lythan’s, and what a week it has been! We have opened all but one of our trenches, revealing the top level of the archaeology. We’ve found out a lot about this monument’s structure and have had several interesting and exciting finds. Next week, we’ll be opening the last trench, which contains the chamber contents. Although, evidence may not be stratigraphic here, we hope to find out some more about what the chamber contained. Here’s a summary of what’s been going on so far:
What an amazing first week we have had at St Lythan’s burial chamber – the weather has been good (apart from last Monday!), and we are really beginning to get a clearer picture of the structure and plan of the monument. A large trench has been opened lengthways across the mound (Trench 1), and work has been going so well here that almost the whole trench was exposed by the third day!
This trench has revealed that the stone cairn material is made up of large slabs and boulders and small pebbles – probably anything that was available locally, with a possible circular feature around the chamber itself. Could this point to phases of construction of the long mound, with the round circular mound supporting the upright stones, with the longer mound added later? Hopefully as we go down through the archaeology we will be able to answer this question…
St Lythan’s was actually ploughed back in the 1960s, and this changing in structure may be the result of this ploughing disturbance, we have now opened a trench to the north and south of the chamber, and hope to see this circular structure continuing around the chamber, fingers crossed! In this area we have found a huge amount of glass, post-medieval and medieval pottery. Along with these finds a crematorium tag was discovered, which hints that the monument was used as a burial area right into modern times!
We have also found several pieces of flint, and one piece of prehistoric pottery. Here’s Jane – a really superb and enthusiastic volunteer, who lives very near to St Lythan’s, holding up her flint find proudly:
At the moment we also think we may have found the edge of the mound, and along with that we have have discovered some structure within the cairn – perhaps walling designed to support the cairn material.
There are several areas that may be structural, but we cannot say conclusively. We continue the slow process of excavating through some areas of the cairn material and we hope to have a better idea of how the cairn was built and what it originally looked like very soon. A particularly exciting find was made by Jerry (of Archaeology Wales) in the trench opened in the forecourt. Here he found a tiny flake of polished stone axe and some bone, which is amazing! This shows that although ploughing has occurred in the 60s, and that Lukis (an antiquarian) scraped out the chamber contents in 1875 to make a nice shelter for his greyhound(!), Neolithic material still survives, which is very good news for us.
A massive thank you to all our volunteers this week, everyone has worked so hard! Can’t wait to get back in the dirt next week, and hopefully we’ll have some more exciting finds to show you all next week….
Ffion (Cadw) and Meli (Archaeology Wales)