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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Pembrokeshire cromlechs

This is an interesting map, worth publishing here with due acknowledgement.

 It gives the lie to the idea that there was an especially sacred or spiritual area centred on the eastern end of Preseli -- but we should remember that this map simply represents the "high point" of Neolithic culture, when there was a lot of building of chambered tombs going on.  (This was about 5,000 years ago, when the Stonehenge bluestones are assumed by some to have been transported from here to there.....)  Later on, in the transition to the Bronze Age, smaller tombs were built and there was a move towards burying the cremated remains of the dear departed in smaller cists or stone-lined boxes buried beneath round barrows or mounds.  That might argue for a great expansion of settlement in the Bronze Age -- and of course many standing stones were put up at this time too.

Building the Great Dolmens Excavations at Garn Turne, Pembrokeshire, 2012
Data Structure Report November 2012
Univ of Central Lancashire
Site code: GT12 NGR: SM 979 272
Excavation directors: Vicki Cummings and Colin Richards


Helen said...

Seeing that map I couldn't help but think of that recent Oxford Uni study about ancient genetic clusters which seems to show north Pembrokeshire having a distinct group of its own:

Now I'm wondering if there's a link between that cluster and the cromlech builders?

A bit off-topic, I know - and for that, please forgive me, but it's an interesting thought...

TonyH said...

Helen/ Brian

Mike PP made much of the findings at Carreg Samson in his 2012 book, "Stonehenge", pages 20 and 326.

Mike says Alison Sheridan of the National Museums of Scotland has shown that the west coast of Britain may have "provided favoured landfalls for Continental farming groups arriving in Britain as early as 4000 B.C."

"Alison has looked at the pottery of these early farmers. It is in some west coast sites in Britain that styles of pots are closest to those used in northern France and Brittany. For example, she is certain that a pot from the burial chamber of Carreg Samson closed chamber tomb [near Trefin, west of Strumble] is of a style identical to that made in Brittany before 4000 B.C. She reckons that, in large measure, the Neolithic way of life was brought in by migrating Continental farmers as a 'package' rather just its separate components being imported by the indigenous hunter - gatherers. Once farming had arrived in Britain, it was adopted by the locals, Two 'hotspots' of surviving Breton - style tombs within Britain are in North Wales and Pembrokeshire. These areas might well have been points of origin for the earliest immigrant farmers who colonised the valleys that run down to the coast and exploited the adjacent uplands for grazing." [page 326)

I wonder how this may tie in with Helen's mention of an Oxford University study about ancient genetic clusters "which seem to show north Pembrokeshire having a distinct group of its own"? I haven't had a chance to read up on this yet.


Geo Cur said...

There has been no ancient dna extracted from any of the remains from portal tombs in Britain and fwiw no ancient dna at all from Pembrokeshire , therefore we don’t know the genetic make up of the people from that period in the area . The recent Nature study has only provided a picture of the genetic patterns of the Edwardian era (the genes of present day locals whose family had been in the area for 4? generations ) ,we can’t seriously extrapolate those to the medieval period never mind the Neolithic . The only way we will know the genetic make up of the peoples who built the portal tombs is from their DNA .

Helen said...


Thanks for that, I didn't know about the northern France/Brittany connection.

Now I wonder if there are any similarities between the Pembrokeshire cromlechs and their cross-Channel counterparts, in terms of manner of construction and, perhaps more pertinently, if, in either of these locations the stones used were local or imported from elsewhere?

Geo Cur said...

Helen ,
As noted previously , archaeologists have never made claims for long distance transport of components of portal tombs in Britain and Ireland . The best and most comprehensive treatment of the subject “Portal tombs in the landscape .The chronology ,morphology and landscape setting of the portal tombs of Ireland Wales and Cornwall “ :Tatjana Kytmanow 2008 typically comments “All chosen capstones seem to be either local or part of glacial erratics occurring in the area . Since then it is archaeologists providing evidence from excavation who have pointed out that in some cases there was no transport involved at all , the capstone having been lifted in situ . The number of examples of evidence based in situ lifting of capstones was limited but intriguing .
There are similar general conclusions of use of local available material from Portugal ,although not of in situ lifting as far as I am aware , but here , there are examples of possible transport of 500 m ,to 1-2 km ,to 8 km confirmed by petography and geochemical analysis , but with no mention of possible glaciation in the area or direction of flow if there were .

sa said...

Are the Preseli sites close to springs? It's interesting that almost all of the other sites appear to be coastal or close to a watercourse.

BRIAN JOHN said...

There has been a long debate about the ethnic / cultural differences between N Pembs and S Pembs -- two populations separated by a line called the Landsker. There are blood group differences and physical differences -- eg S Pembs people being fair-haired and blue-eyed, and tall, and N Pembs people being shorter, dark haired and brown eyed. English speaking in the south, and Welsh speaking in the north. Conventionally, that difference is put down to an influx of Viking genes into S Pembs, with a Viking colony centred on the Milford Haven Waterway. No physical evidence has ever been found to support that hypothesis, and nowadays most people think that the ethnicity of S Pembs is most likely down to the fact of the Norman colony which established itself after 1187. (The Normans from Normandy were after all just Vikings, a few generations removed......)

BRIAN JOHN said...

Springs? Everything in Pembrokeshire is close to springs. There is so much water sloshing about that it gushes out of the ground all over the place. Darvill and Wainwright claim that eastern Preseli was sacred because there were healing springs there -- revered to such an extent in the Neolithic that the stones close to the springs were also invested with magical / healing powers. Suffice to say that everybody who knows that area says that sacred springs there are less frequent than in other parts of Pembs, and that the D/W theory is nonsense.

BRIAN JOHN said...

What intrigues me is the assumption from both of the archaeology tribes (ie the MPP tribe and the D/W tribe) that there were powerful Neolithic tribes in Preseli capable of massive feats of civil engineering and transportation and in possession of "healing stones" or sophisticated knowledge of astronomy and geology, not to mention knowledge of terrain over vast tracts of countryside. They have to believe that, in order to provide an underpinning for the fantastical tale of bluestone transport. The impression I am getting from assorted other archaeological sources is of a relatively small and insignificant tribal grouping, technically far less sophisticated than the tribes in Ireland and on Anglesey.

TonyH said...

With reference to the ethnic LANDSKER line between N and S Pembrokeshire, I wonder if the influx of an IRISH population into N Pembrokeshire at some time in the Dark Ages or earlier explains N Pembrokeshire folk having their particular blood and physical appearance details?

We could do with knowing of any ethnic studies comparing the native N Pembs. people's DNA and blood, etc, with appropriate parts of Ireland.

Hugh Thomas said...

The diagram does not show unmarked burial chambers, dolmens and standing stones which lie within the Preseli area itself,it does not show the abandoned henge like monument on the north of Talfynnydd and the other north of Carn Goeddog. It does not show the burial chamber below the outcrops at Carn Menyn at the top of Rhestr Cerrig. There are toppled standing stones along the course of Rhestr Cerrig, along with worked stones, propped stones, broken and smashed stone, including one split stone whose wedge is STILL in situ.
The eastern Preselau does indeed have an elevated sense of a sacred landscape , but not for the reasons the Stonehenge bluestone transport supporters would like us to accept ,they WANT this area to fit in with their plans.
I have been decoding the alignments present at Bedd Arthur over a two year period and I can tell you there is much more to this site than most realise. Outcrops in the landscape and and features on the horizon are all part of it and its vista takes in almost the entire eastern Preselau. Even the stones in the monument itself emulate the shape of features in the landscape despite their small size.
I have hardly scratched the surface here with my findings within Preselau , in over 500 miles walked in all weathers all times of the day, using electronic equipment and 30,000 images to check alignments over a five year period.
I have come to the conclusion there are many unmarked sites within the eastern Preselau area, and one discovery I believe even those who have been digging at Carn Menyn have not spotted. I think the eastern Preselau WERE held as sacred in their own right and should be celebrated as such as when the name Preselau is "reverse engineered" , some interesting possibilities emerge. The area from Carn Bica eastward should be celebrated but without Stonehenge, and certainly without "holy springs" which I have been hard pressed to find anything of significance.
I believe if anything was moved to Salisbury plain it was the culture around Bedd Arthur and the "spirit of a sacred landscape", they tried to emulate artificially at Salisbury plain what happens naturally from the view point of Bedd Arthur. If this monument was placed even twenty yards in any direction , it would not have worked .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Hugh -- of course this is just a simple map showing one type of feature. There are scores of other features -- many of them shown on maps already published on this blog.

I don't share your views, but you are welcome to them! I know for a fact that there are many unmarked sites all over Pembrokeshire -- so eastern Preseli is not unique in that respect.

TonyH said...

I'm sure I speak for most of the regulars on this Blog, Hugh. Your further contributions on what you have discerned within the Preselli landscape over five years would be much appreciated and welcomed here.

Hugh Thomas said...

Hi Brian
I was someone who believed in Human transport for the bluestones , but at present I am a huge sceptic even after all my time spent on these hills. There is only ONE place within the area where I could say there was a spring with anything like a "magical feel" to it and that is the stream that runs under the stone river Rhestr Cerrig, at no point is it visible but in gets quite loud in a number of spots but cannot see it anywhere, so to me the ancients must have been taken in by this, especially when you consider what else we have found in the area, toppled standing stones, worked stones, bell stones and it goes on...I do not know if you are happy for me to post a link here but please edit this if you are not happy to.. You may need to copy and paste

This thread I created only shows a small portion of what we have found in the area . The "giant figure" was open to interpretation , but the standing stone in that position has made MANY people think twice, this is not the ONLY outcrop in the Carn Menyn area that has the shape of a recumbent figure on the landscape, the other one has been very modified to make it look that way, is also equally as large as the first one.Since making that thread we went right to the very end of the visible stone river down Cors Tewgyll, there is a lot more to be seen there , more propped stone, smashed stones , stones with wedges in situ.
I bumped into an archaeological dig going on at Carn Menyn, could not believe two small upright stones in the cairn were being compared to Stonehenge... The workers there were fine, the people in charge, well least said the better, could barely raise a "Hello", and rejected anything I tried to point out to them in the landscape.
I realised what was required was to ditch the scientific approach and begin to look at the landscape with the creative eyes of an artist, if I can spot these things here then so must the people who were living here in the past, if we cannot look at things with a sense of awe then we will never create , this to me is why they positioned Bedd Arthur where it is, they created what has taken me two years to figure out and am still working on it, someone worked here for a very long time to create this, and this monument is much larger than people realise..
I fully support your views on Bluestone transport, despite all the worked stones all over the place I have found,despite all the bell stones that still make an audible sound when struck. Dozens of sites across Preselau have been lost due to drovers trafficking cattle and the of course the army being here, I have lost count of the pieces of shell and bullet cases I have found, but with time it became possible to find sites that people were walking past practically every day of the week and not noticing them. I believe what is widely considered to be present in eastern Preselau now is only a fraction of what was, I truly believe this landscape was considered important in its own right but not as a source of stones to be moved to Salisbury plain ,I think it deserves another look because lets face it once people take the Stonehenge out of Preselau they start to switch off, the whole area needs to be looked at for its own merits as for when the pine tree plantation south of Foel Drygarn is finally cut down, a major hurdle in blocking intervisibility of sites in decoding both Bedd Arthur and Gors Vawr may have been removed... Even then there is still a long way to go... :)