Tywyn y Capel Excavations
Project No. G1746
The second and final season of excavation at Towyn y Capel, Trearddur Bay, was undertaken during eight weeks in July and August 2003. The work was supervised by Andrew Davidson and George Smith from Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, and the excavations undertaken by archaeology students from University College, Cardiff and forensic science students from University of Central Lancashire, Preston. Advice and valuable assistance was given by Michael Wysocki, Jennie Hawcroft and Rosa Spencer from the Department of Forensic and Investigative Science, UCLan. The work saw the full excavation of the remainder of the cemetery.

The first four weeks were spent completing the excavation of the sequence of burials dug into wind-blown sand started in 2002. These burials were all placed in simple dug graves. They overlay a distinct buried soil, which formed a horizon between the dug graves and burials in cist graves. Post excavation processing is not yet complete, but a total of over sixty burials were recorded from the upper layer. They were in three distinct layers, and though inter-cutting did occur, the majority were carefully laid out as though to avoid earlier burials. Many of these were infant burials, and a number of the burials were incomplete because of erosion on both sides of the mound. The infant burials appeared to form a distinct cluster on the south side of the site. The adult burials revealed several different methods of laying out the body, including a group of three which were buried with their knees upright and their legs flexed.

A buried soil was encountered below the dug burials, sloping upwards towards the west showing it to have been the east side of a mound. The soil was over 20cm thick in places, and excavation revealed that upper levels of sand had been incorporated into the buried soil in regular rows, suggesting ploughing had taken place over the entire surface of the excavated area. The ploughing marks were cut by a series of cist burials, which had been clearly dug through the buried soil, and thus are likely to be earlier than 7th century AD in date. More work is required to understand the nature of the plough marks, but in section it appears that the top layer of soil has been turned over, thus implying use of a mould-board plough rather than a simple ard. Samples of the buried soil have been analysed for buried pollen, but its alkaline nature, though ideal for preserving bone, has failed to preserve pollen.

Approximately ten cist burials were excavated, containing both juvenile and adult burials. Where sufficient evidence was preserved, it could be seen that the graves had not been cut from the surface of the buried soil, but that a layer of wind blown sand had settled on top prior to the cutting of the graves. Though variations existed, the cist graves typically consisted of a stone cist with side and lintel but no basal slabs, buried in a rectangular pit approximately 1m deep. The cists were carefully constructed of large side slabs, the tops of which were levelled, sometimes by using additional horizontal stones, in order to take the top slabs. The bodies were usually fully extended inhumations, though the legs were on occasion slightly flexed. Following construction of the cist and burial, the grave above was backfilled, and a low mound created on the surface surrounded by a ring of boulders. The accumulation of wind blown sand over the burials shortly after their construction preserved the above-ground grave markings in excellent condition. The skeletons within the cists were well preserved, and two of the skeletons had hair remaining, one in long lengths over the shoulder and down the front of the body.

Andrew Davidson