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12 February 2006
Bronze Age mourners used flowers

The practice of placing floral tributes on graves may date back 4,000 years, research in west Wales suggests. Archaeologists have been examining a Bronze Age burial mound on the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire. As well as analysing cremated bone, an urn and flint tools found in a cist, tests on soil taken from around the site found microscopic pollen grains. Researchers believe it paints a new picture of ancient burial rituals - more tender than previously thought.
     The excavation on Fan Foel, above Llyn y Fan Fach, was carried out by Llandeilo-based Cambria Archaeology. Director Gwilym Hughes said the burial mound was slowly disappearing due to a combination of weather and the many walkers who climbed the mountain every year. "Visitors were collecting stones from the monument," he said. "The only solution was to excavate and record the vulnerable parts of the site and protect the remainder from further damage."
     At the centre of the mound archaeologists examined the contents of a large rectangle stone built cist that had been covered by a large capstone. It contained cremated bone, a pottery urn, a bone pin and several flint tools. The remains included that of a young child - possible no more than 12 years of age - plus the burnt bones of two pigs and possibly a dog. It was radiocarbon-dated to about 2000 BCE.
     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, which has attractive clusters of cream-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. He said: "It gives tenderness to otherwise remote and impersonal burial rites". Mr Gwilt said the same burial ritual had been found as far away as the Orkney Islands in Scotland. The researchers, funded by Welsh historic monuments agency Cadw, now believe as early as the early Bronze Age the upland areas of Britain maintained common traditions when it came to death.

Sources: BBC News (10 February 2006), icWales (11 February 2006)

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