Death is one of the unique aspects of our humanity that sets us apart from all other animals in all but our baser instincts.
There is a human need to accord significance to death and the 'passing of the soul' to another place. This reflects our sense of ego and culturalised megalomania.
How can something as wonderful as me just come to an end? Am I no more than an animal that lives, procreates, suffers and then dies?
THERE HAS TO BE MORE. SURELY.
Discoveries at Bryn Celli Ddu suggest sacrifice and ritual burials and points strongly to Druidic influence.
BUT THAT'S NOT ALL. Bryn Celli Ddu was an ancient Scientific Centre.
Bryn Celli Ddu is a truly historical and significant site and must have been an archaeologist’s dream when it was first scientifically excavated in 1865 and then during the last century between 1927 and 1931.
Though this was not the first venture at investigation for it was plundered in about 1699. What was carried away was probably used for construction.
You’ll easily find Bryn Celli Ddu located less than a mile south of the little village of Llanddaniel Fab and mile to the north of Plas Coch. MORE DETAILS BELOW
First of all, before we enter the cairn it’s important to realise that there are in fact two structures here. One being a ‘Passage Grave’ which superceded an original Henge within a stone circle.
The earlier structure is well known from the more famous henges such as StoneHenge and its sense can be realised by a visit to the site.
It is the cairn and chamber that now dominate the site.
The cairn is much reduced today after archaeological investigations but it affords us a direct understanding of a burial cairn. This is known as a Passage Grave
Beneath the cairn the chamber is roughly 2 metre across, its ground-plan shape dictated by the six large wall slabs. This is then covered by two capstones.
A simple, yet ingenious, engineering approach would have seen these capstones put in place.
The side slabs would have been embedded in the ground and then initially covered by soil to their collective height. One at a time, the capstones would have been rolled and then dragged up the soil slope to be placed where we find them today.
The soil would then be removed and refinements made to the site, as divined and subsequently designed by the priests.
It’s questionable that only manual labour would have achieved this. Beasts of the field would have been employed for most of the beefy work.
It should also be remembered that the people of the Neolithic Age were highly superstitious. Their Druidic priests would have ensured that their perception of the world would have been one of wary fearfulness.
Religion has always established itself in reality and in the hearts and souls of people by creating an enemy or exaggerating the unknown. Curiously, it was only by the priests' guidance that they could remain safe, survive storms, attacks, be assured of food and partners.
Assuaging the wrath of the gods and making certain of a decent reception in the afterlife seemed to be the main preoccupations. Of course, surviving in this life and avoiding as much pain as possible would also have been pretty high on the list of priorities.
Henges have to be some of the most speculated upon human constructions ever created. Mostly, because there is no written evidence to offer descriptions of whether they danced about naked or sang hymns.
In all likelihood, it would have been solemn because this is where the role of a priesthood was cemented in the culture.
However, that is merely anthropological speculation by me.
Yet, reflect on the significance of a church altar.
By now, you must be aware that archaeologists have proposed that human remains found at Stonehenge indicate that a man was killed as part of a religious ceremony.
Whether that occurred on Anglesey is a moot point, for we only have the absurdities of people like Tacitus in around AD60 as a reference for such practices.
Worse still we have the mad musings of Iolo Morgannwg and silliness proposed in William Stuckley's 18th Century romantic ruminations.
The first was in all probability nuts and the second away with the faeries most of the time. (see above Tacitus link)
So very little is known and we are compelled by our own cultural and anthroplogical references to try and glean a meaning, purpose and, even, create a ritual attached to these mysterious sites.
The remains of an ox were found in the triangular stone-defined structure outside of the passage entrance.
In 1928 archaeologists found a small pit in the centre of the henge inside the chamber. This pit was covered by a flat stone and beneath was found a burned human ear-bone and crustacean shells. Other bones, flint arrowheads and other unburned human bones were discovered in the passageway.
Contemporary members of 'The Old Religion', as they call it, have developed their own strange theories for these discoveries.
These bones and other objects have been carbon-dated and indicate they were placed here between 3,000 to 4,000 years ago.
They reveal nothing else, other than confirm my unoriginal thesis that Death and the Passing of the Soul/Spirit were given a well-defined reverence by ritual.
The Bryn Celli Ddu site really is best visited on a fine sunny day. That view has nothing to do with Neolithic spookiness, but sunshine helps to distract you from the claustrophobia.
Being narrow of beam is a defnite advantage as you bend to enter. The passage is about 5 metres in length and just under a metre across at its widest.
It is the low roof and the inability to achieve full personal height that is a troubling imposition. On your first visit the enclosure in a narrow tunnel will inevitably reach back into childhood terror dreams.
The chamber itself, as stated earlier is about 2 metres across and the large capstones above invite speleological terrors. The way back feels a long journey and the blocked off eastern exit heighten the entrapment.
Two's company but three can cause panic.
The gray beam across the roof reveals very recent structural assistance to the chamber. The design on it is very, very, very recent and very Celtic in its pretence.
But this beam is of little importance, other than keeping you in sound corporeal shape.
It is the single rounded column that invites attention because it stands aloof from any immediate engineering purpose.
Intriguingly, you'll find horizontal markings cut into it.
Check your children's height against it. Maybe that's what the Druids did.
The Chosen One will be just so tall. "Fetch the knife, Mildredix. This one'll do."
Theories about Megalithic Astronomy are not new. We shouldn't be so arrogant as to believe it is only our age and technological advancement that can reveal past genius.
It was Norman Lockyear in 1906 who proposed that there was an astronomical significance to the layout at Bryn Celli Ddu. And also that this site was part of a much larger astronomical instrument that had other ancient structures in alignment.
Lockyear proposed that the access tunnel and internal free-standing column were a means to accurately calculate the Summer Solstice.
Back to an irrational arrogance.
How could - the opponents to the proponent argued - people who merely built structures out of rough hewn stone have any idea about such scientific matters?
What these opponents to the proponent had assumed is that intelligence and imagination are the unique preserve of the 20th Century.
It seems that British Egyptologists could attribute engineering genius to the Pyramid Builders 4000 years ago, yet not an ancient British priestly tradition.
It is a great shame that Sir Joseph Norman Lockyer K.C.B., F.R.S. one of the geniuses of astronomy died in 1920 and never met Dr Steve Burrow Curator of Neolithic Archaeology at the Welsh National Museum.
WHAT DID DR BARROW FIND?
While carrying out research in similar territory to Lockear, Steve Barrow, reports on his own theory being realised when he sat inside the chamber one Summer evening.
Sunlight reaching into the chamber along the entrance tunnel presented him with conclusive evidence on the structure's astronomical purpose.
The free-standing column is a Shadow Gauge on which are marked the Summer and Winter Solstice and the Spring and Autumn Equinox.
According to Dr Burrow, the light entering the tunnel would have been intentionally reduced to a near hosizontal column.
The near blocked off entrance would have allowed it to become a Light Box. Check tunnel image further up.
The stone outside the entrance is in perfect alignment with the Summer Solstice.
Each Equinox, Solstice and the Transect of Venus clearly had a religious significance.
These astronomical events were fundamental markers for a religious timetable that had to be strictly adhered to.
If it's fine weather then I imagine that you will not find yourself alone should you choose to visit Bryn Celli Ddu on the occasion of a Solstice or Equinox.
Be warned, though, you could be frightened by the site of men with horns marching along the path toward you.