« PreviousContinue »
THE RECENT DISCOVERY OF URNS
BY J. P. EARWAKER, ESQ., M.A., F.S.A.
LAST year (1889) Messrs. Darbishire and Co., the proprietors of the large Granite Works at Penmaenmawr, erected some new machinery for crushing and breaking their stone, and made a new tramway to carry the stone from this machine to the railway. In March of this year one of the workmen was set to work to trim the sides of this tramway, and on Friday, March 21st, he found two urns, both of which were destroyed. This find was reported to Mr. C. Darbishire, who on searching discovered two more urns,-a large one and a very small one, both of which were removed entire.
Nothing more was done until Thursday, March 27th, when further excavations were made in the presence of a small body of gentlemen of antiquarian tastes, whom Mr. Darbishire had invited to be present. An inspection of the place where the urns had been discovered showed that the tramway had cut through one end of a low mound or barrow, which otherwise would hardly have been noticed. It was, when entire, of an oval shape, about 30 ft. long by about 15 ft. wide, and at the highest point not raised more than about 3 ft. above the level of the ground.
A trench was dug right through the middle, along the longest diameter. The soil was found to be "made soil"; that is, it was not natural, but had been placed on the top of the ordinary surface of the ground. Great care was taken whenever any traces of black earth were met with; and as a result of the day's digging, six urns were found, and five burials, in which calcined bones occurred, but without any traces
5TH SER., VOL. VIII.
of any urns in which such calcined bones are usually placed.
Of the six urns found, three good-sized ones were recovered in a fairly good state of preservation, but in a very wet and friable condition, so that the greatest care had to be taken to prevent them falling to pieces on exposure to the air. One very small urn was also found, which was of a different colour, and harder baked than the others; and, unlike them, it did not contain any calcined bones. In fact, except for a little earth, it was empty. It was found standing upright, with the mouth uppermost; unlike the others, which were found mouth downwards.
In most cases the urns which were found rested with their mouths downwards, on flat stones which served as a firm base upon which to place them. In one or two cases there were stones placed on the top of the urns, to protect them from the soil which was heaped above and around them. Each of the urns was full of black earth containing calcined bones; and the soil around each urn was more or less black, as if the urn had been placed on the spot where the body had been cremated, the ashes being placed inside the urn. So perfect was the cremation, that no trace of any teeth, nor any fragment of bone more than 3 or 4 in. long, was met with.
The five burials in which fragments of calcined bones were found, without any urns, are noteworthy. Not the slightest traces of any urns were met with in these cases, and it seemed most probable that the remains had never been placed in any such receptacles.
During this excavation a series of stones of moderate. size, varying from 1 ft. 6 ins. to 2 ft. 6 ins. in length, and about as much as a man could lift, were found, apparently placed upright on the natural surface of the ground, at unequal intervals, and in an irregularly shaped figure. No urns were found in the space immediately enclosed or (so to speak) sheltered by these
stones; but two or three of the interments without urns occurred in that space.
The next digging was on Tuesday, April 1st. On going to the spot we were informed that since the previous Thursday some men had dug on their own account, and had found an urn; which, however, they had broken to pieces in the belief that it contained treasure. Six men were employed in excavating, and all due precautions were taken that nothing should be overlooked or destroyed. The greater part of the barrow on both sides of the trench, which had been cut on the Thursday, was dug up, but the results were not so satisfactory as had been anticipated. Two plain burials, that is, small patches of black matter, and a few calcined bones, without any traces of urns, were first found, and then another plain burial of a slightly dif ferent character was met with. In this case a small hollow had been made in the natural surface of the ground, and in this the blackened earth and calcined. bones had been deposited, and the whole covered by a thin piece of shale.
In the afternoon one urn of about 9 ins. in height, and about 6 ins. in width across the mouth, was found, and was got out in a very perfect condition, one or two small pieces of the rim only having rotted away. It was found inverted, the mouth downwards; but not resting on any stone, nor had it any covering or protecting stone placed above it. The soil, as it was dug out and thrown upon the wheelbarrows, was carefully scrutinised by many keen eyes, but no traces of any worked stones, or flints, or implements of any kind, were discovered; in this respect agreeing with the results of the previous excavations.
On the following day, Wednesday, April 2nd, operations were again resumed, and the whole of the remaining portion of the barrow was dug out, but no burials of any kind were met with.
Some six weeks or so later, when the six perfect