What a glorious sunny day on site, and a distinct contrast to yesterday when we had to call it a day in most of the trenches at 1pm due to flooding!
Things are progressing well on site and we think we have pretty much resolved possible Cromlech 2 (in the field adjacent to Tinkinswood Farm). We can, unfortunately, conclusively say that it is not a fallen Neolithic burial chamber. Instead we have a small round barrow of probable Early Bronze Age date. The barrow is about 5m in diameter and seems to have been built as a circular earthen mound that was capped by a fairly thin layer of stones and encircled by large boulders. We have found the disturbed remains of a burial that had been dug into the mound on the north side – hats off to Gavin, one of our fantastic volunteers, who managed to find around 25 small finds on sunday (his first day ever on an archaeological site!) including lots of pieces of cremated bone from this burial. This burial would have taken place after the monument had been built and used for the main burial, and we hope to be able to date the bone to discover exactly when this happened.
We have removed all the stones from the surface of the monument in our trenches. The next task is to cut a slot through the earthen mound to see if we can find the main burial which we hope will be in a pit or cist. We will also be taking samples from the soils buried beneath the earthen mound as these will hopefully contain dating material that will tell us when the monument was built. It might also be possible to find pollen and other environmental evidence from the buried soils that will reveal what the local landscape would have looked like when the monument was built. All very exciting!
The large slab we hoped might be a fallen capstone remains enigmatic, although we are currently testing an idea put forward by Joe (the Cadw monument warden) that the slab is actually a fallen standing stone. We have opened a trench at the western end of the slab in the hope of finding a socket for the the stone to stand in. It is looking quite promising, with a suspiciously socket-esque feature appearing in one corner of the trench. Tom and James (our fantastic all-weather volunteers!) will be investigating this tomorrow. It would be absolutely amazing if we could prove that the stone did once stand next to the burial mound…..fingers crossed.
Possible Cromlech 1 (close to the main Tinkinswood monument) is not looking so exciting unfortunately. The area has been very badly disturbed by tree roots but we are struggling to find any coherent structure within the possible monument. There have been some finds of flint and burnt bone, but nothing on the scale of the Bronze Age barrow. The site looks to be field clearance (albeit substantial clearance) piled up on a natural rock outcrop. We are trying one last trench adjacent to one of the possible fallen upright slabs to see if we can find any evidence that this once stood, but we are not hugely confident. We are taking consolation in the fact that we have managed to answer a question that has been asked for a very long time – is this another Neolithic monument. Alas, it is not.
In the possible Quarry we have had some exciting finds from test pit 4, including a sherd of probable Roman greyware, a number of struck flints and a really lovely sherd of Neolithic pottery! This was such a good find that David (our quarry test pits supervisor) actually skipped across the site when he realised what is was! We’re still not really sure what is happening in this area of the site, although we are hopeful that test pit 4 might contain the elusive evidence of stone quarrying that we are hoping for. It certainly doesn’t look like the capstone from Tinkinswood itself came from the large void in the middle of the quarry area, as has been proposed in the past, as we have found no evidence at all for prehistoric activity.
So, while we have not exactly found what we were expecting on the site we have made some really exciting finds and are managing to answer a lot of questions about the Tinkinswood landscape. We have 3 days left on site and are bracing ourselves for the amazing discovery that we are sure is still to come (probably at 3.30pm on sunday afternoon!).
We have open days again this weekend with tours at 11am and 2pm, so come and visit us and see the site before it is covered over again.
Meli (Archaeology Wales) and Ffion (Cadw)