Archaeologists from the University of Manchester and Cardiff University continue to excavate the King Arthur-linked site where cremated remains of bones were recently discovered.JB SALC A team from the universities have been excavating at Arthur’s Stone in Herefordshire, and continue to make exciting discoveries at the site, believed to date to 3700BC.
Professor Julian Thomas, Director of Archaeology at the University of Manchester, is leading the project with Professor Keith Ray of Cardiff University. Manchester colleague Dr Nick Overton is Associate Director.
When asked about the recent work undertaken by the team, Professor Thomas said:
This site is well known as the spot where King Arthur reputedly slew a giant, and was the inspiration for the Stone Table in C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. But it is really a Neolithic chambered tomb, dating to around 3700 BC. The site is less damaged that previously imagined as the drystone walls that surround the tomb, and the passage and chamber deposits are all intact. We have identified a primary phase of the structure, where the large chamber with a massive capstone was surrounded by a small circular cairn of stones. Later, a more massive linear cairn was added. In addition to this, we have partially excavated a large quarry, from which the stone for the monument may have been acquired.
Members of the public are now able to visit the site and see the work undertaken by the team. Since the BBC’s news story regarding the discovery of the cremated remains, the site has become a popular destination for enthusiasts.
Professor Thomas added:
In the last month, we’ve seen over 2000 visitors to the site and we’re trying to offer different experiences to those that come to see our work. We’re holding lectures in the village hall, holding open days as well as English Heritage tours and other group tours on offer.
The BBC visited us at the site when a small cist, or stone burial chamber, was being investigated. This probably dates to the Early Bronze Age and was found to contain a small quantity of cremated bone. It is often the case that later burials like this one are inserted into large Neolithic funerary monuments.
The project is an important research excavation that acts as a training exercise for British and overseas students. As well as academics, the project is staffed by professional archaeologists taking leave of absence from commercial archaeology units, most of whom are graduates from Manchester and Cardiff. It also brings together 38 current and recently graduated Manchester students, who are taking Archaeology-related degrees. There were also 10 students from Cardiff University and five students from a variety of American universities.