Seen Better Days? Reflections On The Past At Pentre Ifan

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Here we have the bare bones as it were – the remnant massive boulders of a 5,500 year old chambered tomb – Pentre Ifan in Pembrokeshire. The cap-stone is said to weigh 16 tons, yet now seems barely to touch the three supporting megaliths. It all but floats, defying both logic and gravity.

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Which then has us demanding answers? Who on earth (without aid of heavy plant gear, cranes and tackle) did all the lugging and lifting to position it so? How many man and women hours did it take? For whose after-life were they toiling – a revered clan lord or lady? Or did the tomb provide a resting place for the many, in some way an accessible repository where the earthly remains of the entire clan could be placed?

We can never know exactly. We can only wonder – in both senses. The builders left scant traces of themselves – a few pieces of Neolithic pottery and flint tools.  But excavations in the 1930s and 1950s did at least suggest that the tomb had been re-used and appeared to have had some sort of ceremonial forecourt, a feature known from other chambered tombs across the British Isles. Here’s a proposed reconstruction.

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Doubtless over the centuries the more moveable stone components of outer cairn and inner chamber have been repurposed in farm walls and barns, but originally the cairn that covered the actual tomb extended downhill some 120 feet (36 metres). You can get some sense of the scale of operation from the last photo where you can still see the outline in the grass. The monument would have been visible from the sea, dominating the high ground above Cardigan Bay.

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As I look again at these photos, taken two years ago, I now find myself wondering more about us than the ancestors. What kind of people have we become? Time for some serious scrutiny?

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Related post: Scenes from the realm of ancestors

Lens-Artists: Seen Better Days Please visit Tina who set this week’s challenge. She has posted some fabulous photos.

Past Squares #5

34 thoughts on “Seen Better Days? Reflections On The Past At Pentre Ifan

      1. Definitely doesn’t need be – going to require a huge societal change though. At least some of us i guess are trying to reduce our unbeautiful marks.

  1. Great photos here Tish. We have been to this place just as the sun was setting on a chilly December day.
    “What kind of people have we become?”
    One would hope more tolerant and kind given the past two years, but recent events make me think otherwise.

    1. That must’ve been a fine time to go there, Jude. As for us becoming kinder etc, we’ve been much encouraged by the media and politicians to be anything but. Never have there been so many brands of ‘divide-and-rule’ activated all at once.

  2. This looks such an atmospheric and photogenic place. I always find it hard to fathom how people back then were able to construct such massive monuments, tombs etc. And I also wonder at the beliefs and culture that drove them to do it. It must have really mattered to them to have such places.

  3. I hope it is not too late for us to change. But it will take enormous willpower from everyone. If they could make this lift with stone and bone…why can’t we? Will and brains. We have the technology they say – then use it! Great post.

    1. Many thanks, A-C. I’m sure ordinary folks are capable of change, and many are anyway willing already. The real mess-makers happen to be at the top of the socio-economic pile. Somehow they manage to be there, getting richer by the second and yet remain blame-free. That’s quite a knack.

  4. Excellent post Tish. I’ve seen many images of these but your final image is the first that really put it in perspective for me. Well done and a terrific example.

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