A beach-side service has marked the end of one of the most important archaeological digs to take place in Pembrokeshire for many years.
Since 2014, archaeologists and local volunteers have been excavating the remains of St Patrick’s Chapel, a mediaeval cemetary buried beneath sand dunes at Whitesands Bay near St Davids.
Over forty bodies dating from the sixth century onwards have been recovered. The deceased received no possessions in keeping with a Christian burial tradition. One of the most significant discoveries to date is the burial of a young adult female; at the head of the grave, excavators uncovered a cross-shaped grave marker with a ring-cross carved on the surface of the stone. This is the only example from Britain of a radiocarbon dated 7th-9th century AD cross-carved grave marker found in situ at the head of a cist grave.
The human remains were very-well preserved and are now undergoing osteological analysis at the University of Sheffield to establish the demographic profile and health status of the population. A number of skeletons will also be subjected to stable isotope analysis for dietary reconstruction, and to identify whether the people buried at St Patrick’s Chapel were local to the region as children.
Excavations carried out at St Patrick’s Chapel, and the analysis of the remains of those who were buried there, have the potential to transform understanding of Christian coastal communities who once lived and died in Pembrokeshire during the early medieval period.
But the time has come to return the site underground. And so, before the dunes were replaced, a pop-up congregation gathered under the leadership of Revd Ian Cohen to mark the occasion and celebrate the legacy of the Welsh-born patron saint of Ireland.
“God’s own on their pilgrimage following where God’s spirit leads.”
Prayers were said and a hymn sung. The Mayor of St Davids, Cllr Michael Chant, gave a reading fromn the Confessions of Patrick:
“It was the over-powering grace of God at work in me, and no virtue of my own, whih enabled all these things.”