|Pentre Ifan Burial Chamber|
Pentre Ifan Dolmen - side view
|Alternate name||Pentre Ifan Cromlech|
|Location||1km south of Pentre Ifan hamlet, in Pembrokeshire National Park. (OS Grid ref SN099370)|
|Excavation dates||1936-7, 1958-9|
|Archaeologists||William Francis Grimes|
Pentre Ifan is the name of an ancient manor in the civil parish of Nevern, Pembrokeshire, Wales. It contains and gives its name to the largest and best preserved neolithic dolmen in Wales. The Pentre Ifan monument is a Scheduled Ancient Monument and was one of three Welsh monuments to receive legal protection under the Ancient Monuments Protection Act 1882. It is now in the guardianship of Cadw, with public access.
As it now stands, the Pentre Ifan Dolmen is a collection of 7 principal stones. The largest is the huge capstone, 5 metres (16 ft) long, 2.4 metres (7.9 ft) wide and 0.9 metres (3.0 ft) thick. It is estimated to weigh 16 tonnes and rests on the tips of three other stones, some 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) off the ground. There are six upright stones, three of which support the capstone. Of the remaining three, two portal stones form an entrance and the third, at an angle, appears to block the doorway.
The dolmen dates from approximately 3,500 B.C. and, possibly, was used as a communal burial. The existing stones form the portal and main chamber of the tomb, which would originally have been covered by a large mound of stones about 30 metres (98 ft) long and 17 m wide. Some of the kerbstones, marking the edge of the mound have been identified during excavations. The stone chamber was at the southern end of the long mound, which stretched off to the north. Very little of the material that formed the mound remains. Some of the stones have been scattered, but at least seven are in their original position. An elaborate entrance facade surrounding the portal, which may have been a later addition, was built with carefully constructed dry stone walling. Individual burials are thought to have been made within the stone chamber, which would be re-used many times. No trace of bones were found in the tomb, raising the possibility that they were subsequently transferred elsewhere.
Pentre Ifan was studied by early travellers and antiquarians, and rapidly became famous as an image of ancient Wales, from engravings of the romantic stones. George Owen wrote of it in enthusiastic terms in 1603, and Richard Tongue painted it in 1835.
The first United Kingdom legislation to give protection to ancient monuments was finally passed in 1882, and 'The Pentre Evan Cromlech' (as it was styled) was on the initial list of 68 protected sites - one of only three in Wales. On 8th June 1884, 2 years after the passing of the first Ancient Monuments Act, Augustus Pitt Rivers, Britain's first Inspector of Ancient Monuments, made a visit and produced sketch plans of the monument. The legal protection the act gave was limited. It became an offence to remove stones or items from the site, but the owner of a monument was exempt from any prosecution. The Act however provided for the Commissioner of Works to become 'guardian' of a scheduled monument - in effect to own the monument even though the land on which it stands remains in private ownership. Perhaps as result of Pitt Rivers' visit, this protection was put in place, and the Commissioner of Works and his various successor bodies have been guardians of Pentre Ifan ever since.
Archaeological excavations took place in 1936/1937 and 1958/1959, both led by William Francis Grimes. This identified rows of ritual pits which lay under the mound, and therefore must pre-date it. Kerbstones for the mound were also found, but not in a complete sequence, and aligned more to the pits than the stone chamber. Very few items were found in the excavations, other than some flint flakes, and a small amount of Welsh (Western) pottery.
The dolmen is maintained and cared for by Cadw, the Welsh Historic Monuments Agency. The site is well-kept and entrance is free. It is located about 17 km from Cardigan, and 5 km east of Newport, Pembrokeshire.
- British Archaeology Magazine: News, Issue 108, Sep/Oct 2009
- DAT PRN: 1471 Dyfed Archaeological Trust - Archwilio Database
- coflein NPRN: 101450 RCAHMW: Coflein database
- stonepages.com Accessed 7 June 2014
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- Hunter, Robert (1907). " Appendix A". The Preservation of Places of Interest or Beauty. Manchester University Press. Wikisource.
- Cadw website
- www.geograph.co.uk : photos of Pentre Ifan and surrounding area
- The best preserved megalithic site in Wales - Extrageographic
- QuickTime VR of Pentre Ifan: British Tours Ltd
- Article and photos of Pentre Ifan