pentre ifan / petty wales

pentre ifan. neolithic, between 3,000 to 4,000 bc. it stands on a slightly raised mound and is 8 feet high with a huge capstone that rests on the very tips of three upright stones. excavations have shown that it was a multi-phase monument with three major periods of activity. the entrance is h-shaped and is almost closed by a large blocking stone; at the south side (front) a semi-circular forecourt and at the sides some of the kerbstones still lie flat. the massive capstone is 5 metres in length and some 2 metres off the ground and, the whole monument is 5.5 metres in length. it’s wedge-shaped capstone weighs an ‘estimated’ 16 tonnes. looking at the capstone you could almost expect it to move at any moment, the balancing of this stone on it’s three supporting uprights is quite remarkable.

petty wales. part of the new groundworks that now surrounds the tower of london, known as petty wales that leads down to the tower pier and embankment via three quays walk. these walkers time travel casting shadows across the gap, flashing up the past in the present.


the dialectical image is an image that emerges suddenly, in a flash. what has been is to be held fast — as an image flashing up in the now of its recognizability. [benjamin, arcades project, 473, n9,7]


dolmens, augues darvill, are simply raised stones, something that could be achieved in many different ways. in southwest wales three main approaches were used, all of which share a common desire to lift a massive slab of rock out of the ground and suspend it in the air, in a manner once romantically described by jacquetta hawkes as ‘floating above the burial chamber’.
not that all of these monuments were burial chambers, however, some are simply ‘propped rocks’, achieved by lifting one end of a large slab and supporting it using a second upright block of stone so that there is a gap between the stone and its bedrock matrix. 
propped stones of which pentre is perhaps the most impressive, make a statement that prehistoric people would recognise. these dolmens could be mistaken for a natural phenomenon or these rocks and mounds could be mistaken for monuments. perhaps our ancestors were imitating what was all around them, and saw these pre-existing mounds and outcrops as the monuments of an earlier and now extinct race of giants, their predecessors, or ancestors. the categorical distinctions between ‘cultural’ and ‘natural’ is blurred, and in the 4th and 3rd millennia bc, more porous.
the preseli landscape, and similar landscapes in the cambrian mountains at the heart of wales, or around the harlech dome, where volcanic activity has created some very distinctive rocks. glacial erosion has left numerous features that we are now able to explain geologically, but that might have been seen in the past as evidence of supernatural forces. long ridges and terraces created by the deposit of morainic material; kettle holes; rock stacks and shattered rock outcrops; the formations known as roche moutonnée, pingos, and drumlins – all could be mistaken for the deliberate constructions of former inhabitants of the landscape. glacial erratics can look like recumbent standing stones, and a roughly circular pattern of erratics at llyn y gorlan (which long ago entered welsh folklore as a primitive gorsedd circle, popularly believed to be the site of an early eisteddfod).
coetan arthur (pentre ifan) occupies an impressive setting and is visible from some distance away by sea and by land. natural formations, carn ingli and the preseli mountains form a backdrop on either side of the ancient monument. a fascination with the meaning of these features may well have led to the ambition to imitate them, leading to a subtle interplay of natural and modified rocks. this seems to have been an impulse widely shared, because propped rocks abound all around the irish sea basin and as far west as the yorkshire dales, not to mention on the near continent.
many propped rocks occupy impressive settings and are visible from some distance away by sea and by land: coetan arthur, for example, is set on the cliffs above st david’s head, while king’s quoit, manorbier, occupies a precarious perch at the end of a headland only 5m from the cliff edge. a propped rock on skomer occupies a prominent skyline position at the north-eastern end of the island, moreover, while carn sian stands on the preseli ridge. only one of these – garn wnda – is associated with human remains. 

the dialectical image is dialectics at a standstill. for while the relation of the present to the past is not a purely temporal, continuous one. the relation of the then to the now is dialectical—not a continuous development but image leaping forth.

#past present #time travel #dialectical image #montage #imageconstruction #pentre-ifan