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Secrets of mysterious Welsh ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ stone starting to be unravelled

14 Aug 2021 2 minutes Read
Maen Ceti/Arthur’s Stone. Image by RobinLeicester

Excavation work by Cardiff University is starting to reveal some of the mysteries behind the ancient Maen Ceti style burial mounds.

The cairn, known as Arthur’s Stone in English, is found on the northern ridge of Cefn Bryn on the Gower peninsula and is believed to date back around 3,700BC.

The megalithic tomb features a massive 25-ton quartz capstone perched on top of a series of smaller pointed rocks.

It’s similar to another formation that’s found on Dorstone Hill in Herefordshire, also known as Arthur’s Stone.

The distinctive burial structures are believed to have been the inspiration for the ‘stone table’ that features in CS Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia series.

Excavation work by Cardiff and Manchester universities at the Dorstone site is now shedding more light on the background to the strange structures.

They believe that the stone formations are only the remnants of much larger and longer burial mounds that were once covered in compressed turf and held in place by a series of posts.

‘Integrated’

They also believe that Maen Ceti may have been part of an ‘intergrated Neolothic ceremonial landscape’, based on the similar structures and time periods of the cairns found in Herefordshire and the Wye Valley.

Julian Thomas, an archaeologist from the University of Manchester, said: “Although Arthur’s Stone is an iconic Megalithic monument of international importance, its origins had been unclear until now.

“Being able to shine a light on this astonishing 5,700-year-old tomb is exciting, and helps to tell the story of our origins.”

Method

Archaeologists believe the structures were not created by stacking the stone but by digging away the ground beneath the main stone and sliding rocks to support it.

One legend surrounding Maen Ceti is that 6th-century Welsh bishop Saint David broke the stone with his sword after being angered by a druid ceremony. Another is that it was a pebble cast from the shoe of King Arthur.

It was one of the first sites to be protected under the Ancient Monuments Act of 1882.

The finding from the Dorstone excavation site are only initial observations and the research has not yet been peer-tested.

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Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago

Yes, DEFINITELY neither of those legends are true.

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

Oh? Downvoting facts because you like fairy stories? …
Do you want to buy some magic beans I have?

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

Not magic beans then? I have a talking cat that could make you Lord Mayor of London. I mean it doesn’t speak all the time but have faith. The more faithful you are the more it speaks.

CJPh
CJPh
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

So you don’t believe that Dewi Sant went back in time about 600 years to see a Druidic ceremony taking place on the Gower peninsula and slice up their altar with his flaming sword that could cut through stone? What are you, twp? (Ok, fine, aliens did it) They’re stories, mun. Not the best ones, granted, but they can comfortably live alongside the facts. As long as neither encroach on the other’s territory. It’d be sad to see these cultural artifacts die in the face of the coldly objective, just as it would be deeply alarming (if a little hilarious)… Read more »

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  CJPh

Fair point. I was just surprised that an innocuous disposable comment about “legends” which are literally just sentences motivated people to downvote. I love a good legend. I’m known for it amongst my circle. But “and then a bishop came and win everything” stuff is not even worth the time it takes to read it. I love the Arthur legend too (not the Galfridian and post-Galfridian drivel of course) but even Goths don’t have shoes big enough to have stones that size in them. But sentences are not “legends” and Legends should be insulted that the ancient equivalent of TikTok… Read more »

Last edited 1 month ago by Cynan
CJPh
CJPh
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

Agreed. I am also not a fan of this headline. ‘Chronicles of Narnia’ stone? Give it a a few years after some Guardian travel journo popped by for twenty minutes and that’ll be the unofficial ‘Official’ name for it on many a Rough Planet-style blog and book.

It’s right next to DylanThomas town, just up from the Cockle Strait.

Last edited 1 month ago by CJPh
Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

You’ll be telling us Geoffrey of Monmouth was in school with Doctor Who next! Though, I suppose that’s as likely as any other Arthurian tale.

Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

Will I? Doctor Who stories are more believable than anything Geoff the liar claimed

defaid
defaid
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

I was there; I think we were in Llanelli at the time. Arthur turned to me as he pulled out the stone and said, “It’s funny how something so trivial can cause so much discomfort.”

Shan Morgain
1 month ago

Rather than a general account of legends and what is known already, it would be desirable to give some account of what the new research is about. When does it start/ did it start? What will it do/ what methods will be used? What initial questions will be asked? When will the first research report be?

defaid
defaid
1 month ago

@ Shan, the university appears not to have published its findings yet.
https://www.sciencealert.com/the-first-excavations-around-arthur-s-stone-have-revealed-the-monument-s-true-origin

@ cynan, yes it’s absurd to suggest that Arthur had such big feet. The pebble simply swelled with pride at having been touched by the king.

As far as the bishop goes, I never met him. I don’t regret it because by all accounts he had a foul temper, probably something to do with a lifetime of abstinence.

I notice that despite your later criticism, in your original post you refer to the stories as legends…

Last edited 1 month ago by defaid
Cynan
Cynan
1 month ago
Reply to  defaid

You’re right. I did. Using the same nomenclature as the article. Imagine when I use that term I intend it to drip with derision

defaid
defaid
1 month ago
Reply to  Cynan

Sorry, rainy Sunday. It’s a very slow afternoon 🙂

defaid
defaid
1 month ago

Does anyone know the triad “The three arduous undertakings of Prydain”? Apparently, raising the capstone onto the supports was one of them.

I only have Rachel Bromwich on Trioedd, and Google is no help.

Huw Davies
Huw Davies
1 month ago
Reply to  defaid

I think you were looking for Tair Gorchwyl Gadarn Ynys Prydain. The first is Codi Maen Cetti.

defaid
defaid
1 month ago
Reply to  Huw Davies

Thank you, Huw.

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