The Tinkinswood Burial Chamber in Cardiff, South Wales, boasts one of the largest capstones of any prehistoric tomb in Britain. Measuring 24ft/7m by 15ft/4.5m it weighs an incredible 40 tons.
The chamber dates from the New Stone Age (Neolithic) and was in use 1,000 years before Stonehenge was built. The site is all that remains of what was originally a village or settlement. When the site was excavated in 1914, archaeologists found 920 human bones. Study of the bones indicated that at least forty people were buried here, and they were of all ages and sexes. From this it would appear that the Tinkinswood burial chamber was used by the whole community.
Excavations also revealed Neolithic and Bell-Beaker style pottery, showing that the chamber was probably used over a long period of time, perhaps as late as the early Bronze Age. At some stage in its history repairs were carried out and a brick pillar was built inside to support the capstone.
Leading away from the tomb, two parallel lines of stones form an avenue to the south east. Many stones also lie along a second avenue to the north east. A large single stone stands due east, and two flat parallel standing stones point to the top of the nearby Coed Sion Hill. A group of boulders to the south east of the monument is said to be women who were turned to stone for dancing on the Sabbath day – a legend which is often associated with dolmens.
Another legend associated with Tinkinswood is that anyone who spends the night here before May Day, St John’s Day (23 June) or Midwinter Day will die, go mad or become a poet. It is not clear whether victims had a choice and there appear to be no historical records of anyone suffering any of these fates!
The site is now managed by Cadw, a Welsh Government body responsible for the protection, conservation and promotion of the built heritage of Wales. Their website is https://cadw.gov.wales/
Text Alun Harvey