The First Stones: Penywyrlod, Gwernvale and the Black Mountains Neolithic Long Cairns of South-East Wales [Paperback]

William Britnell (Editor); Alasdair Whittle (Editor)

ISBN: 9781789257397 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2022 | Language: English 320p, H280 x W216 (mm) Colour and b/w

The First Stones


The First Stones brings together the results of recent research on the Neolithic long cairns lying in the shadow of the Black Mountains in south-east Wales, focusing upon Penywyrlod and Gwernvale, the two best known tombs within the group, previously excavated in the 1970s.

Important results lie in both new site detail and reassessment of the wider context. Small-scale excavation, geophysical survey and geological assessment at Penywyrlod – the largest of the Welsh long cairns – gave further information about the distinctive external and internal architecture of the monument. In turn, this opened the opportunity to reassess the pre-monument sequence at Gwernvale, with re-examination of both Mesolithic and Neolithic occupations, including a timber structure and midden, lithic and pottery assemblages, and cereal remains. The frame for wider reassessment is given by fresh chronological modelling both of the monuments themselves, suggesting a sequence from Penywyrlod and Pipton to Ty Isaf and Gwernvale, probably spanning the 38th to the 36th or 35th centuries cal BC, and of early Neolithic activity in south Wales and the Marches, probably beginning in the 39th century cal BC. A detailed study of the major assemblages of human remains from the Black Mountains tombs includes evidence for diet, trauma and lifestyles of the populations represented. Recent isotope analysis of human remains from the tombs is also reviewed, implying social mobility and migration within local populations during the early Neolithic.

The First Stones makes a significant contribution to the study of tomb building, treatment of the dead, place making, the relationship of monuments to landscape, local and regional identities, connections and affiliations across southern Britain and the adjacent continent, and Neolithisation in western Britain. Viewed within the context of tombs within the Cotswold-Severn tradition as a whole, it leads to an appreciation of the local and regional distinctiveness of architecture and mortuary practice exhibited by the tombs in this area of south-east Wales, emerging as part of the intake of a significant inland area in the early centuries of the Neolithic.

Table of Contents

William Britnell
List of figures
List of tables
1. Penywyrlod and Gwernvale Neolithic long cairns: context and history
Alasdair Whittle
2. Penywyrlod Neolithic long cairn revisited
William Britnell with contributions by Adrian Humpage, Martin Roseveare, Anne Roseveare, Daniel Lewis and Charlotte O’Brien
3. Gwernvale Neolithic long cairn reconsidered
William Britnell
4. A chronology of the Black Mountains tombs and their place in the early Neolithic of south Wales and the Marches
Seren Griffiths
5. The beginnings of agriculture in Wales: the evidence from Gwernvale
Astrid Caseldine
6. Neolithic people of the Black Mountains: human remains from Penywyrlod, Pipton and Ty Isaf
Michael P. Wysocki
7. ‘Local’ or ‘non-local’? Interpreting isotope results from the Black Mountains long cairns
Samantha Neil
8. Isotope evidence of human diets at four Neolithic chambered tombs in south Wales
Michael Richards
9. Gwernvale: a review of some of the lithic artefacts
Elizabeth A. Walker
10. The Neolithic pottery from Gwernvale: an update and review
Alistair J. Barclay
11. Organic residue analysis of Early Neolithic pottery from Gwernvale
Isabel L. Wiltshire and Lucy J.E. Cramp
12. The first stones: taking and keeping the land
Alasdair Whittle, William Britnell and Seren Griffiths
Appendix: Monument conservation at Penywyrlod
William Britnell
Sites to visit

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