PENTRE IFAN is the name of an ancient manor in the civil parish of
* 1 The Monument
* 2 Original use
* 2.1 Alternative theory * 2.2 Construction technique
* 3 Archaeology * 4 See also * 5 Notes * 6 External links
As it now stands, the
A possible reconstruction under the traditional theory as to its use
The dolmen dates from approximately 3,500 B.C. and has traditionally been identified as a communal burial. Under this theory the existing stones formed the portal and main chamber of the tomb, which would originally have been covered by a large mound of stones about 30 m (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.
A major study by Cummings and Richards in 2014 has produced a different explanation for the monument. They identify several distinctive attributes shared by the class of monument known as dolmens, all of which are particularly well exemplified at Pentre Ifan. Pentre Ifan, photographed in around 1885.
Firstly such monuments typically have a large capstone derived from a glacial erratic - far bigger than is required or sensible if the aim was to roof a chamber. Furthermore, the capstone has a flat underside. Sometimes, as here, this has been arrived at by splitting the rock, other times, as at Garn Turne, some 12 km to the south-west, it has been laboriously 'pecked' off using stone tools. The capstone is supported on the tapering tips of slender uprights. As at Pentre Ifan, there are often other stones within the group, but they play no part in holding up the capstone, and the resulting effect of the enormous stone appearing to float above the other stones would seem to be deliberate and desired. If these are the key elements of the monument then, it is argued, the stones were never designed to be buried within a mound, and they never formed a chamber to contain bones. What we see today is the monument as it was intended to be seen. It might therefore represent a more elaborate version of a standing stone. Its purpose could be simply to demonstrate the status and skill of the builders, or to add significance and gravitas to an already significant place.
The sheer size of the huge capstone that is supported by the larger dolmens makes it overwhelmingly likely that the stone was not brought in from elsewhere, but already stood as an independent glacial erratic on the same spot it now occupies. Evidence from the 1948 excavation is compatible with the idea of a large pit being dug at Pentre Ifan, to expose and work on the stone, perhaps splitting it to create a flat underside, It could then be levered vertically upwards a little at a time, using poles, ropes, and large numbers of people, and packed into place using a growing heap of boulders. Once at the required height, the supporting uprights could be introduced, and the boulders removed to leave only the uprights, and such other surrounding stones as were wanted.
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
* List of Scheduled prehistoric Monuments in north
* ^ A B British Archaeology Magazine: News, Issue 108, Sep/Oct 2009 * ^ DAT PRN: 1471 Dyfed Archaeological Trust - Archwilio Database * ^ A B C D coflein NPRN: 101450 RCAHMW: Coflein database * ^ A B www.megalithic.co.uk * ^ A B stonepages.com Accessed 7 June 2014 * ^ Cummings, Vicki; Richards