Yesterday I had a special day out in the Welsh landscape visiting a range of archaeological sites to support the research of two of my MA Archaeology of Death and Memory students – Afnan and Scott.
3 sites will receive attention in Scott’s MA dissertation: Bryn Celli Ddu, Gelert’s Grave and St Winifred’s Chapel and Holy Well. In addition, we stopped briefly in the car park at Plas Newydd to view the Neolithic tomb in the grounds, and then later we visited the Iron Age fortified settlement of Caer Leb and the Neolithic burial chamber at Bodowyr.
Here I’ll focus on the Bryn Celli Ddu revisit. I’ve already posted my thoughts about Bryn Celli Ddu’s heritage interpretation in the car park and at the monument itself. I’ve also previously focused discussion on the deposits left here by neo-Pagans and others. Here, I’d like to return to the multiple dimensions the deposits, since I saw things I haven’t seen before.
Afnan and I were the spectators, although I must admit we couldn’t resist wading in with our thoughts on the heritage interpretation panels and management of the site. In contrast, Scott was there to do some recording and observations for his thesis investigating the intersection of heritage, death and memory in comparative terms. Here he is at work exploring the monument with enthusiasm.
The passage grave remains fully accessible to the public and well-lit from both the original passage and the cross-section through the mound on the opposing side.
The latest visit allowed Afnan, Scott and I to explore contemporary deposition and inscription. On previous visits, less so on this one presumably as it is now out of season, I’ve noticed deposits by the entrance to the passage grave.
Inside, the situation was different. Every surface, nook and cranny inside the chamber of this passage grave is augmented or adorned in some fashion: not only the drystone walling used to place and cram items, but the concrete support beam that stops it all toppling onto visitors’ heads has been heavily graffitied with pen. I’ve posted about this before: here.
Items placed in the chamber included water-worn pebbles, shells, coins, a 5 Euro note, and earrings, as well as plants, berries and feathers.
Deep inside the crannies we could see more precious items, placed so as to be inaccessible.
One of the most striking and distinctive things I noticed was the cramming of 5p coins into the rock itself in a manner reminiscent of the treatment of coins on coin trees.
In sum, it appears that Bryn Celli Ddu continues to be a focus of present-day depositional practices, but that the range of objects, and the manner of their incorporation, are rich and varied. Every visit brings new insights.
Incidentally, it was fun visiting these sites with MA students, and during the day I got to sing along with Scott to the full lyrics of Bohemian Rhapsody. Life is never dull on the Death and Memory field trips!