Again, I exaggerate. The Tinkinswood burial chamber (Welsh: Siambr Gladdu Tinkinswood), which also known as Castell Carreg, Llech-y-Filiast and Maes-y-Filiast, is a few miles away from me here in the Vale of Glamorgan. It is, however, quite near the St Lythan’s burial chamber and the cave at Goldsland Wood, Wenvoe, where Neolithic human remains have been recovered.
As with the St Lythan’s cromlech, the Tinkinswood is a dolmen is a megalithic burial chamber of the Severn-Cotswold tomb type built around 6,000 ago, during the Neolithic period. Like St Lythan’s, it was part of a chambered long barrow, and thought to be the final resting place for the bones of the Stone Age peoples in the area. It is, however, much larger than the burial chamber at St Lythan’s — it is believed to be the largest dolmen in Britain and Europe. The capstone alone is a limestone slab “approximately 40 long tons and measures 24 feet (7.3 m) x 14 ft (4.3 m) … It would have taken some 200 people to lift the stone into the correct position.”
The work wouldn’t have been over once the cromlech was erected, either. The whole structure was then covered by a tumulus – a large mound of sod and smaller rocks that created a man-made, elongated hillock over and behind the cromlech — giving the site the characteristic “barrow” of the long barrow burial chambers. The original barrow was enormous, but due to erosion and human tampering it shrank to it’s still impressive size of 130 ft (40 m) x 59 ft (18 m).
From the dolmen itself two parallel lines of stones form an avenue toward the south east, and a second avenue to the north east with several stones at the end of it.
There is a large single stone standing due east, as well as two flat parallel stones which appear to “point” at the top of the nearby hill in Coed Sion Hywel.
Although archeologists still aren’t 100% sure what the burial chambers actually symbolized to the Neolithic peoples who built them and used them, excavations of the dolmens frequently turn up human remains, indicating that most of them were tombs – or became tombs — at the very least. In 1914 Tinkinswood was excavated, and “inside the chamber there were 920 human bones, which were nearly all broken. This showed that at least forty people of all ages and sexes were buried there during the Neolithic period; it would appear to be a burial chamber used by the whole settlement. The corpses of the dead were probably left exposed before being moved into the burial chamber.” The 1914 dig also did some regretable restoration work then, with a brick pillar put in to support the capstone and a stone retaining wall for the earth around it.
The site, which is managed by Cadw, saw the start of some modern excavations in October 2011. You can read a little more about it on David Standing’s post, https://monasticdave.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/tinkinswood-community-archaeology/ and more at https://tinkinswoodarchaeology.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/final-dig-diary-for-tinkinswood/. To me, one of the most interesting finds was this one:
associated with the secondary burial cut into the top of the monument. Below a rock next to the location of this burial was a Roman coin! Not at all what we were expecting, although it is not unknown for Roman burials to be put into much earlier monuments and this is what seems to have happened at Tinkinswood. It does show that the monument was still visible and still respected 2000 years after it had been built, which is very interesting.”
People bearing Roman coins visited Tinkinswood. How cool is that? Its not that far from Caerleon, so it’s not really that surprising, I suppose. But still … awesome.
The human remains that have been recovered thus far at Tinkinswood are interesting – mostly for what they don’t show. The musculoskeletal analysis of the remains found at places like Parc Cwm long cairn (carn hir Parc Cwm) in Gower, show indications of gendered labor divisions. For example, the muscular development in men appears to be significantly greater, which is usually attributed to hunting large game animals. At Tinkinswood, this strong gendered variation was absent, indicating a much more gender egalitarian division of labor.
The Tinkinswood site also produced shards and pieces of Neolithic and Bell-Beaker style pottery, which first started showing up in Britain around 2500 BC. This indicates that the burial chamber might have been used for a thousand years, and perhaps into the early Bronze Age period. Historical craniometric studies and dental analysis led credence to the theory that the Bell-Beaker pottery was brought in with new migrants to the area, known archeologically as the “Beaker folk”. If so, the Beaker folk appear to have adopted the ‘native’ mortuary uses for the long barrows. With the addition of Bell-Beaker migrants, the ancient Welsh would have probably become the same genetic mix as the rest of Central and Northern Europe: “a three-way miscegenation” of Neolithic farmers, western European hunter gatherers who were present in Europe since at least the Mesolithic, and the newly integrated Yamna people with roots in Eastern Europe and the Near East.
That means that Eastern Europeans and people with a brown skin tone from Mesopotamia have been making babies in Britain for eons and the Britain First racialists should get a grip. British people are less than 40% Anglo-Saxon on average. British people, regardless of ethnicity, know how to queue properly, like tea, and incessantly gripe about the weather. That’s it. That is all that is holding Great Britain together, as a people.
Tinkinswood, naturally, has local legends about it. As with the lore of many Welsh mountains, anyone who spends a night at Tinkinswood on the eve of May Day, St John’s Day (23 June), or Midwinter Day will either die, go mad, or become a poet. There is some disagreement on what would be the worst fate of the three. Also, the group of three boulders to the south east of the monument are said to have once been women. They were said to have been turned to stone as punishment for dancing on the Sabbath day.
Since seeing Tinkinswood, I’ve been to Stonehenge. It seems nice, for one of the newer works. I’m not sure about all these newfangled standing stones, tho. I am a traditional dolmen girl, myself.