AN ancient burial site near Nevern is much older than previously thought, according to archaeologists.

Bristol University and the Welsh Rock Art Organisation have been excavating the site of the Trefael Stone for the past three years.

Their discoveries suggest that it could have been in use 10,000 years ago – almost twice as far back as expected.

At the early stage of the excavation, the team unearthed sherds of pottery which appear to date from the late Neolithic; two perforated, water-worn beads similar to those found at the early Mesolithic coastal settlement site at the Nab Head on the Pembrokeshire coast; and the remains of human bones. Carbon dating on the bones suggest the ritual burial site was used as recently as 1,900 BC.

Dr George Nash, who headed the dig, said the excavation had revealed a site which was of symbolic significance to ancients for millennia.

He said: “When you walk around it, the most obvious examples of graves are from about 100 years ago, but when you search a little further you can see the evidence of older burials, and how the site has altered and evolved.”

For centuries the historical importance of the Trefael Stone was largely unknown, it was disregarded as just one of hundreds of Bronze Age monuments. But more recently it was revealed to be the capstone of an ancient tomb.

Dr Nash said: “Trefael was considered just a simple standing stone lying in a windswept field, but the excavation has proved otherwise.

“It’s amazing that we’ve found this much in the notoriously acidic Pembrokeshire soil, which normally destroys any ancient artefacts.

“The discovery of human remains and their subsequent date range is the icing on the cake.”