Visit to St Lythan’s Burial Chamber

This unexpected visit to St Lythan’s Burial Chamber was really exciting and I enjoyed standing inside the structure. The stone slabs contained lots of holes or miniature caves that reminded me of my rocks. It was interesting to be able to stand inside the structure and experience the atmosphere of this place. This experience brought back some feeling I had when I visited the caves in Orvieto. Being surrounded by the rocks and getting the opportunity to look into the tiny caves and details inside, made it seem like a close experience of being inside the world of the worm, inside the rock in the way that I imagine it. This is something that I am exploring in my work as I want to create an immersive experience for the viewer, to expose this world and allow people to see and experience it.

Information about the original uses of the chamber:

As well as places to house and to honour the dead, these cromlechs may have been communal and ceremonial sites where, according to Dr Francis Pryor,(archaeologist specialising in the study of the Bronze and Iron Ages in Britain) people would meet “to socialise, to meet new partners, to acquire fresh livestock and to exchange ceremonial gifts”. The corpses of the dead were probably left exposed, before the bones were moved into the burial chamber.

Known locally as gwal-y-filiast – kennel of the greyhound bitch – this single stone chamber is all that remains of a once much larger burial monument. The name may come from a variant of the Arthurian legend of Culhwch and Olwen, which appears in two fourteenth-century Welsh texts, but the site itself is very much older dating from the Neolithic period, some 5,000 to 6,000 years ago.

St Lythans is a type of monument known as a chambered long cairn and was originally covered by an earthen mound, probably similar to that found at its close neighbour, Tinkinswood. Although the stone chamber is conspicuous as you approach it from the road, the remains of the cairn – or mound – are barely discernible. It seems to have been about 24 metres (80 feet) long and 11 metres (35 feet) wide with the chamber occupying the eastern end. The chamber now consists of three upright stones with a capstone weighing up to 35 tonnes. How long it was used and who was buried here are questions that remain unanswered but finds of human remains and pottery recovered from the site some time before 1875 were recorded by the antiquarian, J. W. Lukis.


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