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Bronze age burials

Neolithic burials took place in communal tombs. This approach changed during the Bronze Age, possibly associated with the changing tribal structure. Burials of individuals or small groups characterise Bronze Age burial. Another characteristic of Bronze Age burials is their association with the uplands. Perhaps as settlement moved down into the valleys, the uplands came to be regarded as sacred places, possibly due to the fact that they had been safe places for settlement in the past. The ridges and uplands may also have been used to define territories for the different tribes.

Ring cairns with open interiors and external stone banking were built on Cefn Bryn, Hardings Down, Llanmadoc Hill and Rhossili Down – all upland sites with little evidence of similar sites lower down the valleys. On Llanmadoc Hill there are 14 cairns still surviving, whilst there are over 40 cairns along the ridge of Cefn Bryn. These sites are understood to be possible Bronze Age cemeteries and evidence of human remains have been found at some of them, such as Pennard Burch and Bishopston Burch on a former part of Fairwood Common. Similar sites exist along the coastline, such as at Burry Holms.

Bronze Age burial rituals can also be linked to caves on Gower. Human remains have been found at Three Chimneys Cave at Burry Holms, which is understood to be a burial site.

The link with burial may not be accurate in all cases because no evidence of burial has been found at some sites – for example at Great Cairn Ring Cairn near Arthur’s Stone, which has now been reconstructed. Instead, the site may have been used for ceremonies or symbolic practices.