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Twyn-cae-yr-eithyn Burial Cairn

photo number 3296-0048 © CPAT 2012

View of the cairn under excavation. Photo number 3296-0048 © CPAT 2012

A programme of detailed survey and trial excavation was undertaken to investigate a potential Neolithic chambered tomb near Twyn y Beddau (SO 24183810), in the Black Mountains of eastern Breconshire with funding from Cadw. The investigations focused on an elongated mound thought to be that identified by Theophilus Jones in 1805 as Twyn-cae-yr-eithyn and believed then to be a tumulus, similar to the well-known site at nearby Twyn y Beddau. Having been effectively ‘lost’ for almost two centuries the mound in question was rediscovered by Olding and Makepeace in the late 1990s, at which time it was considered to be an intact chambered tomb, although the association with the named site was not made until a visit by CPAT in 2003.

The small-scale excavation and survey of 2011 were designed to elucidate further the nature of the site and it had been expected that the results would confirm the mound as a well-preserved chambered tomb.

It is now clear, however, that the mound in question is composed of entirely natural material and that its present appearance is perhaps largely the result of it having been modified by holloways which have cut into either side. There is a palimpsest of former trackways crossing this part of the upland common, resulting from the migration of the route between Hay-on-Wye and Llanthony, via Gospel Pass, together with more local routes.

photo number  3296-0055 © CPAT 2012

Despite the apparently natural origin of the mound it is also clear that it had become imbued with a sense of importance, both in the prehistoric period and perhaps later. The excavation demonstrated that the south-western end of the mound, its highest point, is crowned by an oval burial cairn measuring 9.8m by 7m, surrounded by a kerb of larger stones, which is presumably of Bronze Age date. Whether the appearance of the mound had been modified at all either before or in association with the construction of the cairn it was not possible to determine.

What drew the attention of Theophilus Jones is uncertain. He may have been directed to the site because of its perceived historical significance, or perhaps identified it as a tumulus as a result of his own experience. The fact that the mound had been named indicates that at the least it was considered a prominent topographical feature some time before the 19th century, although the name Twyn-cae-yr-eithyn translates simply as the mound in the gorse field. The only other such landmark to be named locally is the well-attested tumulus at Twyn y Beddau, 500m to the north.

Left: The north-eastern side of the cairn showing the surrounding kerb of larger stones. Photo number 3296-0055 © CPAT 2012

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