by Sandy Gerrard

Much has been made of the lack of conclusive evidence to support a prehistoric interpretation for the stone alignment at Bancbryn on Mynydd y Betws.  All of the alternative explanations lie in tatters but still Cadw will not even accept the idea that the prehistoric interpretation remains the most plausible explanation. Instead they prefer to stick with the line that there is “insufficient evidence to propose scheduling the feature as a prehistoric stone row”.  Cadw will not say what they think it is, preferring instead to emphasise the lack of positive evidence. In many ways this is an understandable position.  They are essentially saying that as we have no definite proof that it is prehistoric it would be unwise to add the site to the schedule of ancient monuments. However, this position would seem to contradict their usual “modus operandi” where mounds of stones, hummocks, single standing stones or indeed even lines of stones have happily been added to the schedule with no conclusive evidence being provided to justify their interpretation.

Indeed one does not have far to look to see an example of this apparently inconsistent behaviour.  No conclusive evidence currently exists to support a prehistoric date for the scheduled cairns at Bancbryn. No finds or other dating material has been recovered from any of them and indeed the entry in “Coflein” the Royal Commission’s online database notes:  “The scanty remains of 14 to 17 cairns, most of which have central mutilations, suggesting that, although no structural elements are apparent, the cairns may have been ritual in nature. Alternatively the cairns may have been claerance (sic) heaps, robbed in the hope of their being sepulchral.”

Coflein also helpfully publishes an extract from the scheduling documentation which states: “Remains of an extensive burial cairn cemetery, probably dating to the Bronze Age, situated within open moorland on the summit of Bancbryn. “

So despite considerable doubts about the identification and date of the mounds at Bancbryn, Cadw were happy to schedule this particular monument without any actual evidence to support its date or function.  Insufficient evidence was not an obstacle in this instance so why is the same level of proof not being applied to the associated stone alignment? The Cadw scheduling process seems somewhat haphazard. Sometimes hard evidence is needed but on other occasions no evidence at all. This inconsistent approach to the protection of our heritage should be a concern to us all.

One of the scheduled cairns at Bancbryn. This cairn is scheduled despite a lack of hard evidence to confirm its date and function.

One of the scheduled cairns at Bancbryn. This cairn is scheduled despite a lack of hard evidence to confirm its date and function.