The Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust
Historic Environment Record
 

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PENMAEN BURROWS CHAMBERED TOMB

Primary Reference Number (PRN) : 00250w
Trust : Glamorgan Gwent
Community : Ilston
NGR : SS5316188127
Site Type (preferred type first) : Neolithic Chambered tomb
Legal Protection : scheduled ancient monument

Summary :
A megalithic burial chamber belonging to the Severn-Cotswold group. The feature consists of an eastern entrance passage, a main chamber with a semi-collapsed capstone, a well preserved southern side chamber and a ruinous northern chamber.

Description :
A megalithic burial chamber belonging to the Severn-Cotswold group. Cruciform in plan although little remains of the northern side chamber. The feature consists of an eastern entrance passage, a main chamber with a semi-collapsed capstone, a well preserved southern side chamber and a ruinous northern chamber.
The entranceway faces ESE. O.42m of the orthostats (upright stones) are still visible. The passage is 1.15m wide, the entrance to the main chamber is narrowed to 0.86m. The main chamber is c2m by 4m. The northern orthostats have collapsed, leaving six still upright, the capstone propped up on its south-east corner. The capstone is 2.93m long, 2.1m wide and 0.55m thick, only large enough to cover half of the main chamber, or all of a side chamber. The sides of the southern chamber are still intact, 0.75m high, 1.55m wide and 2.1m long before it disappears into the dunes. Little is left of the northern chamber, the furthest collapsed stone is c1.9m away from the main chamber. Between the entrance and the southern chamber was a pile of grassed over stones, presumably cairn material.
Excavation of the chamber was attempted in 1861 and 1882 but neither got very far. In 1893 the Swansea Scientific Society cleared the area down to its original ground level. The entrance chamber was 8ft (2.44m) long, 3ft6 (1.07m) wide, contracted to 3ft (0.91m) at the outer end, and 3ft high, diminishing towards the entrance. The stones were a mixture of limestone and conglomerate, with the gaps filled by dry sandstone walling. Disturbed animal bones were found in later deposits within this passageway. Large amounts of shells were found in later deposits within the main chamber, this was cleared to its original surface but not excavated further for fear of disturbing the foundations, it was noted that the original ground surface appeared undisturbed. The southern chamber was found to be 8ft6 (2.59m) long by 5ft (1.52m) wide, and 3ft6 (1.07m) high, diminishing to the south. Animal bones, a fragment of human jaw, and a broken bone handle were recovered in disturbed later deposits. Near the base was a stony deposit, including some sandstone reckoned to have come from Mayals or Penclawdd, about 6 miles away. Towards the southern end of the chamber, nearer the base, were found two small bones of a human hand. Two flat stones, about 1ft (30cm) square, were found nearby, under one of the stones was a confused arrangement of bones, but the other stone hid a possible human humerus crossed over rib bones, apparently undisturbed they were left where they were. A short way off was found three pieces of undated brown pottery. (20)

Possibly originally situated on a hillside, but the natural topography is obscured by the formation of dunes on the flanks of Three Cliffs Bay; could have been a false crest. The visible remains of the tomb consist of the remains of an E-facing entrance passage opening into the main chamber 4x2m with a subsidiary chamber opening to the S; a sand dune lies immediately to the W of the main chamber, obscuring any further structures which might exist here. RCAHMW postulates the existence of a N chamber opening opposite the s one from the main chamber, but there is no clear evidence for this. The entrance passage now appears as a shallow rectangular hollow, 1.2m wide and at least 2.2m long, possibly extending further to E; lined at W end of N side by a slab 1.2m long, 0.4m high and 0.2m thick (RCAHMW in 1966 recorded another lining slab at the S side). The W end is formed by two orthostats (0.9x0.9x0.3m, 0.65x0.8x0.2m), which separate it from the main chamber, with a gap of 0.8m between. The sides of the main chamber are defined on the E side by these two stones, on the W side by a single massive orthostat , and on the S by two orthostats with the S chamber between them. The capstone (3.1x2.1x0.6m) is now supported only on the stones to the E of the S chamber, and slopes down to the W and N; under its NE corner is another slab which is probably a fallen orthostat. There are two further blocks to the NW. The S chamber (2.3x1.8m and 0.6m deep) has all sides apart from the N lined by single orthostats. RCAHMW (quoting from Morgan 1894) notes that finds made when the monument was cleared in 1893 were restricted to the S chamber, and consisted mainly of late debris in the filling of blown sand, including a human jaw fragment, animal bones and a piece of a bone tool handle. Bones observed beneath two paving slabs were left in place, while ' three small pieces of brown pottery' lay on an early surface.
Reference: Morgan, W Ll, 1894, Discovery of a megalithic sepulchral chamber on the Penmaen Burrows, Gower, Glamorganshire, Archaeol Cambrensis 5 ser 11, 1-7 6.0x4.1m, 1.2m high GGAT 72 Prehistoric Funerary and Ritual Sites survey 2001. (1957) Immediately south of the chamber is a large grass covered mound, of irregular shape, with an average diameter of 23.0m and a height of 2.0m. It is largely composed of sand, and may be excavation debris. ( Source 02 )
(1966/1976) At about 45 m above OD, among sand dunes on a low headland flanking Three Cliffs Bay on the west. Two rectangular chambers and an entrance passage are exposed in a hollow below a large dune, which presumably conceals the the remains of a cairn to the W. The structure is built of slabs of limestone, sandstone and conglomerate, and is ruinous, but most of the plan can be deduced. The main chamber , 4 m long by 2 m wide , has six uprights in their original positions, including the one which closes the W end. The entry is from the east by a gap 0.8 m wide between transverse portal slabs, from a passage 1.2 m wide, of which the outer end is buried; the long axis of the chamber and passage is at 80 degrees E of S. Between the two uprights of the S side of the main chamber is the entry to another, which consists of three slabs and measures 2.6 m N to S by 1.4 m; there was probably a similar chamber on the N, but its entry from the main chamber is obscured, and only one possible component slab remains, lying loose on blown sand. A smaller loose slab lies on the dune about a metre E of the main chamber. The displaced capstone resting on the S E uprights of the main chamber and on loose stones within it is large enough to have covered the whole of a side chamber or half of the main one.
Following minor investigations in 1860 and 1881, the remains were cleared in 1893 down to the original ground surface, which is now covered again by blown sand. The extant uprights of both chambers were seen to have allowed a roof height of about a metre, while those of the passage were sligthly lower. Some spaces between uprights and above short ones were completed with rough walling of thin sandstone pieces. The entrance passage was revealed as 2.4 m long, and 0.9 m wideat its outer end. A supposedly fallen supporter noted beneath the NW of the capstone is hard to reconcile with the one now visible in that quarter. Finds were restricted to the S chamber, and consisted mainly of late debris in the filling of blown sand, including a human jaw fragment, animal bones and a piece of a bone tool handle. Bones observed beneath two paving slabs were left in place, while ' three small pieces of brown pottery' lay on an early surface. ( Source 01 )
(1969) Condition unchanged. ( Source 19 )
(1985) The monument is more or less as described. The sand dunes make it almost impossible to trace the shape of the original mound. ( Source 12 )
(1989) No change ( Source 17 )
(1997) The site remains as previously seen . ( Source 18 )

Sources :
Dillon E & Latham J , 1987 , Nicholaston Burrows, Notthill and Cefn Bryn National Trust Archaeological Survey
01/ PM list// RCAHM// 1976/ Glam Invent/ p 32 No. 35
02/ MM Record card/ OS/// 1957/ SS 58 NW 5/
03/ PM Desc text// Fox/ C/ 1937/ Arch Camb XCII/ p 159
04/ PH Excavation Report// Morgan/ WH/ 1894/ Arch Camb/ p 1 - 7
05/ PH Excavation Report// Morgan/ WH/ 1892/ Trans Swansea Soc./ pp 54
06/ PM Desc text// Wheeler/ REM/ 19 / Prehist & Ro Wales/ p 76
07/ PM Desc text// Daniel/ G/ 19 / Prehist. Chamber tomb/ p 210
08/ MM Photo/ GGAT/ Lewis/ W/ 1979 - 1980//
09/ PM list// Grimes/ WF/ 1931/ BBCS/ Vol VI , Pt 1 , pp 88 - 9
10/ MMPH/ GGAT/ Parkhouse J/ A62 23
11/ PM Mention//// 1981/ Arch Camb/ Vol CXXX '' report of the Annual Meeting 1980'' pp 153 - 161
12/ MM Desc text/ CADW/ Burnham/ HB/ 1985/ AM 107/
13/ MM Desc text/ Nat trust// 1987/ Arch Survey/ Nicholaston , Nott Hill & Cefn Bryn p 8
14/ MM Mention/ Nat Trust/ 1989/ Management of Arch. Sites on Gower Properties/
15/ PM Mention/ / Owen - John/ HS/ 1990/ From Archaeology to Antiquarianism
16/ MMAP// 1991// A 111 - 6 - 8
17/ MM Desc text/ CADW/ Burnham/ HB/ 1989/ AM 107
18/ MM Desc text/ CADW/ Burnham/ HB/ 1996/ AM 107
19/ MM Record card/ OS/// 1969/ SS 58 NW 11/
20/Pm Desc Text/Poucher P/2002/Archaeological Survey: Penmaen & Nicholaston Burrows, Cefn Bryn and Notthill/SMR Report 1274

Events :
E000600 : PENMAEN BURROWS CHAMBERED TOMB, UNSPECIFIED EXCAVATION, 1860 (year : 1860)
E000696 : PENMAEN BURROWS CHAMBERED TOMB, UNSPECIFIED EXCAVATION, 1881 (year : 1881)
E003898 : Nicholaston Burrows, Notthill & Cefn Bryn, National Trust Properties (year : 1987)

Related PRNs :


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