Bryn yr Hen Bobl

Chambered Cairn - Anglesey

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SH 51897 69008 (GPS 25min)
Visited April 2002

PLEASE NOTE  Bryn yr Hen Bobl is on private land and public access is not normally allowed. Our sincere thanks to the estate manager for letting us visit this unique monument.

Bryn Yr Hen Bobl, the "Hill of the Old People", is an unusual monument, almost without parallel on Anglesey. A rectangular stone chamber is contained within a large kidney shaped cairn, the shape of the mound being maintained by a pair of internal stone walls running around its edges. These walls take on a complex structure in the forecourt area around the chamber entrance, gradually giving way to orthostats immediately before the chamber itself. The chamber is about 2m long and about 1m wide, with an original clearance below the roof slab of about 1.5m.  The capstone measured about 3m x 2m when intact, but it is now in two pieces. 

At the chamber entrance there is what appears to be a sill stone, it is thought that this stone was originally about 2m tall and was actually the blocking stone for the chamber. In the upper edge of the "sill stone" are two large perforations, these may be remains of two "porthole" apertures piercing the original full sized stone. Further blocking was provided by the construction of at least one dry stone wall across the forecourt and considerable stone infill.  Excavation within the chamber revealed that the rear southern side slab had been cut away almost to ground level along its rear edge, it has been suggested that this may have been intended to allow entrance to the chamber after its construction. Build up of soil in the chamber has significantly raised the floor level and now conceals this feature from view.

A unique, and very unusual feature of this monument is a long "terrace" that extends from the southern edge of the cairn. This is a substantial construction, its 90m length contains walls 0.6m high with a compacted stone core. Although the original function of this strange construction is unknown, when the effort involved in its creation is considered, it must have been of great significance to the builders.

Excavation of the area produced more pottery and flint than any other Anglesey site, unfortunately the specific find locations for much of this were not recorded. Although pottery sherds are said to have found in the chamber and forecourt area, the actual pieces cannot be identified. The only reliable find from the chamber itself was a broken oval section bone pin (a find usually associated with Passage Graves), and bone fragments. The bone was all unburnt, and came from about twenty adults and children of both sexes. Due to disturbed nature of the site, not all of the bone can be considered to be from original deposits in the chamber. Most of the pottery was found on the old ground surface under the terrace structure, which suggests that the monument was probably built on an old settlement site. The remains of four fires were uncovered in the forecourt area, one less than a metre from the sill stone of the chamber. Sherds had been deposited in these fires, hinting at several instances of ritual activity in this area.

The only other monument on Anglesey with any similarities to Bryn yr Hen Bobl, is Pant-y-Saer. This tomb has a similar kidney-shaped mound with complex internal walling, but it lacks the terrace feature and the chamber structure is different.

One strange thing we noticed at Bryn yr Hen Bobl was that many of the slabs in the dry stone walling of the chamber had modern shallow holes about 1cm in diameter drilled in the centre of their faces. We have since discovered that this is sometimes used as a way of marking new stonework added during restoration. The drill holes are effectively permanent, so even if records of the reinstatement are lost, spotting the new stonework will always be a simple task.

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