Bryn Celli Ddu – burial chamber


   Around 5000-3000 BC on the site of Bryn Celli Ddu a stone circle surrounded by a ditch and an earth embankment was created. Most likely, it held religious functions. In the middle of the archaeological research, the bone of a burnt human ear covered with a stone slab was discovered. Perhaps it was a form of sacrifice before the construction of the tomb. A stone decorated with spiral and wavy lines was discovered next to the pit with remains. Since stone circles are rare objects in Wales, and more common in England, it is assumed that the local community had to maintain long-distance contacts.
About a thousand years after the construction of the circle (according to the Cadw information boards, this period was not long), the structure was destroyed. Sixteen stones were damaged, some were overturned, and six were destroyed. Then, instead of a circle, a burial chamber was built, placed inside an earth mound. Human remains, both incinerated and skeletal, were found in the chamber and in the passage to it, proving the various methods of burial. The entrance to the tomb was eventually covered with a stone.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the first excavations began. In 1796 Bryn Celli Ddu was added on the list of dolmens on the island of Anglesey. In 1802, John Skinner visited and described the archaeological site. During his visit, the author heard that the grave had been discovered a generation earlier, by a farmer looking for a stones. Lured by the possibility of discovering the treasure, he moved the stone blocking the entrance. At that time, many of the lighter stones were stolen or destroyed. In 1928-1929 work in Bryn Celli Ddu was led by Wilfrid James Hemp. The archaeologist was able to discover the phases of the tomb development, as well as the “Pattern Stone”, which was then transferred to the National Museum of Wales. Research by Christopher Knight and Robert Lomas from 1997-1998 seem to confirm earlier theses that Bryn Celli Ddu could be used to mark the day of the solstice as an agrarian calendar.


   The earliest erected stone circle about 30 meters in diameter consisted of 14 stones arranged vertically, surrounded by a ditch and an earth rampart. The ditch was about 5 meters wide and 2 meters deep. From the north-east side there was probably an entrance in the form of a dike built from the earth. The center was probably in the form of an altar, there were found the remains of a human, burnt ear, covered with a stone. The second stone next to it had numerous wavy and spiral patterns.
In the second phase, after the destruction of the stone circle, a passage type tomb was erected. It consisted of a 8.4-meter-long corridor lined with stones, leading from the entrance to the central burial chamber, also made of stone slabs on which the vault was made of two capstones. Inside the chamber, one of the stones was left loose in a vertical position. The whole was covered with an earth mound, and the entrance was covered with a boulder, earth and bones. The edges of the mound were reinforced with a wreath of additional stones.
   The entrance to the passage of the tomb was located on the eastern side. As the mound (cairn) was not an ideal circle, and had a small wedge near the entrance, a small courtyard was formed on the opposite side, enclosed by an older earth rampart in which a gap was created to serve as a gate. This courtyard was probably used for religious ceremonies, remnants of hearths were found there, and a buried sacrificed ox, surrounded by smaller stones.

Current state

   Today’s appearance of Bryn Celli Ddu, whose Celtic name means “the mound in the dark grove”, is the result of reconstruction works carried out in the 20th century. The mound is now much smaller, its original size is determined by the outer circle of stones. The mound does not completely close the burial chamber, therefore its back wall is open, allowing natural light to enter. Behind the rear wall of the chamber, in the place that once was located within the mound, there is a replica of Pattern Stone. Its original is currently in the National Museum of Wales. Bryn Celli Ddu is widely regarded as one of the greatest passage tombs in Wales. Unlike many others, it has not only a full passage and a burial chamber, but is also partially covered with a mound. The value of the monument is raised by its earlier form in the shape of a stone circle, the presence of a pillar stone in the burial chamber, a stone with spirally carved patterns, and the fact that the structure could be used to designate the summer solstice day.

show this monument on map

return to alphabetical index

Castleden R., Neolithic Britain: New Stone Age sites of England, Scotland and Wales, London 1992.

Website, Bryn Celli Ddu.
Website, Bryn Celli Ddu.