Bronze Age Grave Tribute That Said It with Flowers

Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales), February 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

Bronze Age Grave Tribute That Said It with Flowers


Byline: By Gareth Morgan Western Mail

The tradition of laying flowers at the graveside of loved ones stretches far further back than was previously imagined, Welsh research has revealed.

It is common in the modern Western world to mark death with wreaths at a graveside. And in recent years mourners have left flowers at the sites of tragic accidents, especially road crashes. But the need to lay flowers may be an inherent part of human nature and not a modern innovation.

Researchers in Wales have combined archaeology with laboratory technology to discover evidence that suggests the practice dates back 4,000 years.

Our ancestors were following the same tradition all over the area now called the UK. Archaeologists have most recently been examining a Bronze Age burial mound on the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire. As well as analysing cremated bone, an urn and flint tools, tests on soil found microscopic pollen grains. Researchers believe it paints a new picture of ancient burial rituals, a more sophisticated and loving one than had previously been thought.

The excavation on Fan Foel, above Llyn y Fan Fach, was carried out by Llandeilo-based Cambria Archaeology. They unearthed the bones of what they believe to be a 12-year-old child.

Analysis of the soil surrounding the burial site by specialists from the University of Lampeter found the microscopic pollen grains. They show the burial was accompanied by a floral tribute of meadowsweet, with its attractive clusters of creamy-white flowers.

Adam Gwilt, curator of the Bronze and Iron Age Collection at the National Museum of Wales, said the discovery shed new light on ancient burials. 'It gives tenderness to otherwise remote and impersonal burial rites,' he said.

He added the same burial ritual had been found as far away as the Orkney Islands, Scotland. But this additional find means the Bronze Age people were maintaining the common tradition of leaving flowers for the dead despite being separated by hundreds of miles. …

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