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Garn Goch CIC

100 Years To Be 'Discovered'

There is strong evidence to suggest that at the time of its construction, 1,000 years before Stonehenge as we know it was built, the stone circle at Waun Mawn was the largest ever made in Britain, and was, according to Stonehenge expert Professor Parker Pearson, the centre of a number of religious features nearby constituting 'one of the great religious and political centres of Neolithic Britain'.

Like Garn Goch, it then remained disturbed only by grazing sheep and cattle for thousands of years, an apparently insignificant, broken down stone circle on yet another peaty moorland. 

Then in 1925 it was first identified as a prehistoric stone circle, which was significant because two years earlier the geologist H.H. Thomas had speculated that the Stonehenge bluestones had initially been incorporated into a 'venerated stone circle' somewhere in the Preseli hills before making their momentous journey to Salisbury Plain. Even so, 40 years later it was being doubted by an expert on stone circles (WF Grimes) that there was even a stone circle at Waun Mawn. 

However, in 2006, some of the original stone circle at Stonehenge was analysed and confirmed as consisting of geologically unique rock, Preseli bluestone (or 'preselite', a blue-green igneous spotted dolerite) coming exclusively from Pembrokeshire, and by 2009, some of the leading Stonehenge archaeologists were convinced of the Preseli-Stonehenge connection.

In 2016, a team led by Professor Mike Parker Pearson began excavating the nearby quarry at Carn Goedog and the Waun Mawn (literally peaty moorland in Welsh) stone circle. By 2020 they had evidence enough that some of the stones not only geologically matched those at Stonehenge, they matched them, size for size, shape for shape, stone for stone. 

It took, therefore, nearly a century to transform what was once held to be an unlikely, even absurd, proposal into excavation-based evidence sufficient to convince the BBC to broadcast a prime time programme about it in 2021.

That Professor Parker Pearson has 'no doubt that [Pembrokeshire] was one of the great religious and political centres of Neolithic Britain' goes a long way towards explaining why these visually insignificant stones were worth laboriously being transported upto to 250 miles (avoiding hills, rivers and bogs) to Stonehenge. Simply, they must have been regarded as the most powerful, religiously significant, and perhaps ancient, stones in Britain. If Stonehenge had ambitions to be the primary religious site in Britain, then it needed to rob Pembrokeshire of its pilgrim appeal, and take possession of those stones itself. 

The relevance to Garn Goch is that it is also an apparently insignificant stone circle on a peaty moorland that for at least the last 50 years has generally agreed to be nothing more than an Iron Age hillfort. However, more recent rigorous research and analysis has identified it not only as characteristically Neolithic, but also likely to have had major religious and social significance as well as being the largest ancient stone monument in Britain.

Hopefully, it won't take as long for Garn Goch to be 'discovered' as it has for Waun Mawn, but it might well take a BBC2 programme for it to be widely known.

Left: Waun Mawn; right Garn Goch. Copyright.

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