St Patrick's Chapel, Whitesands, St Davids

Archaeological Dig at Whitesands

St Patrick’s Chapel July 2021

Due to coastal erosion at Whitesands, there were regular reports of burials emerging on the beach.   In 2014 Dyfed Archaeological Trust started their first excavation.  All their finds were sent to the University of Sheffield Archaeology department.

I have been fortunate to have the experience of volunteering for a few days at the Dig over five years.  Many buckets of sand were lifted, stones moved, and the huge experience of finding a few cist graves.  It is a very moving experiance when discovering a grave and the removal of the bones is done very respectfully.  Very painstakingly the bones are uncovered, not to damage or disturb the findings.  All stones and graves are measured, photographed, and recorded continually. The bones are put into induvial trays and numbered.  In a few years’ time when the reports arrive I will be very interested to read about the remains that I rescued. It is wonderful to know that the bones uncovered will not be washed out to sea.

Some of the skeletons were in cists – these graves lined and capped with stone slabs.  This is a common burial tradition in early medieval period.  The graves are mainly East-West alignment, in keeping with Christian burial tradition.  Some burials had a unique burial rite – white quartz pebbles on top of the cists.  These pebbles are found in a cave towards St Davids Head.

Wonderful work has been done over the past 6 weeks organised by Ken Murphy of Dyfed Archaeological Trust and his staff who including Luke and Hayley, who were brought up in St Davids.

This past weekend there an exciting find of an interlace cross which had been cut into slate, which lay on top of the cist grave.  This was found underneath the chapel walls.  Very interesting is the circular stone enclosure that has been discovered.