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Monday, 13 February 2012

Pembrokeshire prehistoric sites

Thanks to Chris for drawing my attention to this.  Somehow I had missed it, although it has been out for almost 2 years.  It's a quite comprehensive survey of the Neolithic and Bronze Age features (and some others besides, of uncertain age) centred on two areas -- around Carningli near Newport, and around Carn Alw on the northern flank of the Preseli ridge.  Both areas are very rich in remains.

This is my sort of archaeology -- careful field recording, good photos and maps, and sufficient site detail to whet your appetite.  And NO wild speculation or fairy tales...........

March 2010
F. Murphy, M. Page, R. Ramsey and H. Wilson

Thoroughly recommended.  Do a Google search and you'll be able to find and download the PDF.  These are sample entries from the Gazetteer:

NGR SN1456533344

A 'key hole' shaped stony earthwork situated on a north facing gentle slope of
Mynydd Preseli at 250m above sea level. It is possibly the remains of a corn drier
and associated with or part of the nearby settlement PRN 11523.

A 'key hole' shaped stony earthwork situated on a north
facing gentle slope of Mynydd Preseli at 250m above sea level. The earthwork is
aligned N-S with the circular 'hole' upslope to the south. Overall it measures
c.11.0m N-S by 6.5m E-W and the circular 'hole' shaped bank measures c.4.5m
in diameter. The earthwork stands at its highest point at just over 1.0m high. The
banks are c.0.8-1.0m wide and are hard to define to the N, where it is more a
tumble of stone protruding through the turf, although there are several larger
upright stones that could have been part of the flue entrance. At the southern
'hole' shaped end the bank surrounds a circular depression approximately 0.4m
deep. It appears to be part of or associated with the surrounding settlement PRN
11523. This earthwork stands out in the landscape due to its size and make-up.
During the 2009 fieldwork similarities between this earthwork and those recorded
just north of Carn Alw (PRN 11540-1) and to the scheduled post medieval corn
drier found further north again of Carn Alw (PRN 28275, SAM PE 466), were
perceived. However, in their 2003 Spaces Project report Darvill, Morgan Evans
and Wainwright published a survey of this particular earthwork. They are of the
opinion that it is a prehistoric chambered tomb that has similarities with Bedd yr
Afanc scheduled chambered tomb (PRN 1032, SAM PE 122) that lies
approximately 3.5km to the west. It is such an unusual earthwork that it is not
surprising that there is such a range of interpretations, and only excavation may
answer the question of what it is. In close vicinity to this earthwork are at least 3
clearance cairns at SN14563337, SN14563338 & SN14533344. They are low
earthen stony mounds with an average diameter of c.4.0m. FM & HW June 2009.

NGR SN06283797

A large roughly oval enclosure situated on a north facing promontory on the
northern slopes of Mynydd Carningli, with impressive views in all directions.

This is a roughly oval enclosure. It is situated on a north
facing promontory at 200m above sea level. It is about 100m E-W by 80m N-S
and is defined on the west by a curving stretch of bank and ditch c.60.0m long,
and elsewhere only by natural scarps that enclose an area of level ground. The
bank is c.0.9m high and the ditch 0.6m deep. There are no apparent internal
features. The ground falls away on all sides but the south-west, and where it falls
away steepest on the north there appears to be evidence of terracing or scarping.
It has the appearance of an unfinished defended enclosure, and later than the
surrounding prehistoric features. However, all the surrounding sites respect it and
the field boundaries do not pass under the banks or cross its internal area which
may suggest it is contemporary rather than later in construction. FM & RR May
2009 Banked and ditched earthwork enclosure of unknown purpose and date. RPS
August 2001


If you want to find these sites (and all the others!) go to this web site:
Wait for the map to load, and then type the grid ref into the search box.


chris johnson said...

When I was a boy I spent some time in Ystalyfera, close to the Carmarthenshire border and to the recently postulated "Welsh Stonehenge". The hills were full of stone remnants which we, as children, attributed to the Romans on the advice of our elders. Now it seems we might imagine a neolithic culture, or perhaps bronze age.

Now, neither you or I dispute the glacial transport theory but I suspect we are both fascinated by the possibility of cultural links. I am wondering about the dating of these type of stone row/cairn constructions, the links with the west country of England, and what kind of contact there might have been between Prescelli and the Ystalyfera/Ammonford area. I don't know of stone rows in Prescelli, but maybe you do. Meanwhile I am glad the authorities have suspended work on the wind farm so we can take a closer look.

Maybe this is the area to look for linkage towards Wiltshire. One step on the way, and not via A40?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Maybe the Dyfed Archaeological Trust has an inventory of those features you remember so well? The trouble is that the Welsh data base of historical monuments and scheduled sites is not at all user-friendly.

Geo Cur said...

Scroll down 5 posts ,for a wee bit of info .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thanks Geo -- all sorts of strange things waiting to be discovered on those wild hills.....

Geo Cur said...

The problem is that a row of stones does not a stone row make, and so often something historic and prosaic or even seen with the eyes of faith can become "almost as significant as Stonehenge "

chris johnson said...

Yes, Geo this is the one cited recently.

Geo Cur said...

Chris ,there are two recorded stone rows in pembrokeshire Cerrig LLadron SN 066 322 has three stones and could be the reason for the parish boundry at that point . .The other is Parc Y Marw SM 998 359 which follows the line of a minor road .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Cerrig Lladron has only 2 stones, I think -- so it's a pair and not a row. Parc y Meirw is a row (or a remnant of a row) in a hedge. There were 8 stones -- only 4 still standing.

Geo Cur said...

Coflein suggests 3 .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Hmmm -- I have never thought of those stones as having anything to do with a row. Two stones -- and another off the alignment........if you want this to be a row, you could make any 3 stones in the vicinity of one another into a row. I think I part company with Coflein on this one....

BRIAN JOHN said...

The other great debate is concerning the Russia Stones -- see my posts of last May -- do a search via the search box.

Geo Cur said...

As I said ,among other things , on the referenced MP link " although it has to be said that stone rows can be confused with boundaries from the historic period and some are very contentious ."

chris johnson said...

Parc-y-meiwr is a bit of a puzzle - I don't know what evidence there is for 8 stones originally but the stones still standing are much bigger than the stones near Ystalyfera. I don't see a connection. The stones are clearly megaliths but I don't know how you could be sure that they are in the original position - my dowsing suggests one is but I am not sure about the others. Actually with dowsing I am never 100% sure about anything.

The stones are in a hedge next to a road, so they could have been moved to make a boundary or the road could have been build on an ancient trackway alongside the stones - without a lot of excavation I don't suppose we will ever know.

Nearby is the Field of the Dead with, I think from memory, a couple of standing stones. A local farmer told me they were erected in 1081 AD (?) after a big battle (Myndd Carn) between Welsh and Irish tribes - perhaps he read this on internet. Like Brian says, the farmers I talked to around and about have a very pragmatic attitude to their landscape and take all the weirdos strolling their fields with a big pinch of salt. Still it is a minor miracle that some big stones are left standing in the middle of fields and we should be thankful for that.

Just up the road is Llanllawer, a holy well still in use by modern pagans close to a lovely old church. It is a great place to spend a day and I would recommend walking up from Cym Gwaun (glacial valley), returning back by one of the old paths and taking a pint with Bessie - now a TV personality.

Not sure anybody can draw any conclusions but the area has been lived in for thousands of years and the evidence is all around. However, while we might think the Gwaun is very remote and has ancient traditions like adhering to the old calendar, it is only a few miles from Fishguard which has been a "cosmopolitan" sea port for an equally long time. Trying to unpick the history is a mission impossible, for me at least.

BRIAN JOHN said...

I don't see any reason to doubt that Parc y Meirw is a genuine alignment -- the stones are pretty massive, and the 4 standing and 4 fallen stones seem to be in a straight line. Natural enough, I think, for the locals to have incorporated them into a hedge. The Russia Stones are a different matter -- although Robin Heath is quite convinced by them!

I have written a fair bit about the battle of Mynydd Carn -- it was a battle between two Welsh princes and their mercenary armies. Date -- 1093, I think. Site unknown -- I have assumed it to have been somewhere around Mynydd Morfil.

I don't see any reason to link Parc y Meirw with any other sites locally -- although it does point to a busy little Bronze Age community. But we knew that already....

Anonymous said...

I'll bow to your superior local knowledge, but then I wonder all the more about the origins of Parc y Meirw. I wonder if anybody ever did any excavation?

Next time I'll look more carefully for fallen stones. Last time there was a lot of barbed wire and mud so I must have missed them.

By the way - two princes or three? I seem to remember a story about 3 princes... sorry to drift away from glaciers again.

Chris Johnson
(Experimenting with the anonymous option)

chris johnson said...

I had to lookup the "Russia Stones" and I think I know the ones you mean. From memory there are a few megalithic stones in Pont Faen but I never associated them with neolithic builders because I suspect the valley floods quite often and it does not seem the place to build something lasting. I wonder why they have your interest, although I suppose they must have come from somewhere.

Thanks for leading me to Robin Heath, although I am not that convinced by the exact mathematical approach. I don't know why people at that time would have been fascinated by geometry or mathematics even. I reckon they took their "truths" from the stars - manifestations like Orion's Belt and tried to make a connection from earth. I suppose they could have been fascinated by trying to make a straight line on a curved earth - but now we deviate considerably.

Any reason to bring up the Russian Stones other than to link to a JCB?

Geo Cur said...

Nothing usually wrong with Robin's maths although it is hardly advanced ,if I can do it it can't be .He is also a capable surveyor ,the problem is the interpretation .

BRIAN JOHN said...

Chris -- the discussion about the Rissia Stones arose from my review of Robin's book called "Bluestone Magic" -- and that was right on topic! As you might imagine, I was less than impressed by said book.

Geo Cur said...

Come to think of it , there are a couple of problems that come to mind with some of Robin's calculations ,e.g. the calc for the solstice at Bryn -Celli-Ddu and another related to Long meg and Hellvellyn .

BRIAN JOHN said...

The Battle of Mynydd Carn -- another source says it was in 1081. Four princes and their armies slugging it out -- Trahaearn and Caradog on one side, and Gruffydd ap Cynan and Rhys ap Tewdwr on the other. There are at least two records of "battles in the sky" having been observed in the Mynydd Morfil area -- but this is no time to get into Quantum Physics.

Tony Hinchliffe said...

There are many relatively recently examples of stone rows or similar stone arrangements discovered in the recent past 40 years on Exmoor. Aubrey Burl refers to these e.g. in his 2006 Stonehenge book. I have only a slight field knowledge of Exmoor's prehistoric and later remains, but it's a fascinating part of South-West England and Burl, who is very learned in these matters, postulates similarities at least between Exmoor,Dartmoor, Brittany and Wessex. I used to know a gentleman called Charles Whybrow who was a good Exmoor field observer and contributed to the discoveries.

Geo Cur said...

Tony , After the publicaton of the Burl book Mark Gillings and Josh Pollard with John taylor did a paper on the "miniliths" of Exmoor . Odd that Burl didn't mention Riley and Wilson North who had listed 59 before a few years before his book .

Tony H said...

Geo: very interesting to hear that Pollard & Gillings did a paper on the "miniliths of Exmoor". Do you have the publication details? Those 2 were involved in the 1990s excavations near the Adam & Eve Stones and the rediscovered Beckington E - W Stone Avenue out of Avebury.

Brian, take a look at your copy of Burl's Stonehenge book, My 2006 Edition may well be broadly similar to yours. He titles it "The Four Station Stones...." and postulates a symbolic connection between them and examples of stone rectangles & triangles, often near the coast, on Exmoor, Anglesey, North Yorkshire and Finistere. Might make a good future Post, along the lines of your February 2nd one on Cultural Links.

Geo Cur said...

Tony ,"The Miniliths of Exmoor " Gillings , Pollard &taylor .Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 76 , 2010 pp297 -318 .If you want any info from it do ask .

Tony H said...

Thanks, Geo, I may get back to you on that.

I saw field archaeologist Leslie Grinsell's draft copy of his "Archaeology of Exmoor" around 1969. Who Knows Where The Time Goes?

chris johnson said...

There is a pdf from the web which can be looked up by typing pollard monoliths of exmoor. It does't leave me much the wiser although it looks to be a very conscientious piece of reporting and worthy of an academic star.

As a business guy I am always slightly disappointed when people with many years of education and having grovelled around for a few months in the pouring rain and the mud are so hesitant to provide an executive summary or a broad opinion. Hopefully someone else can massage the evidence into a narrative.

Tony H said...

Here's an interesting reference for any Geographers out there:-

M. GILLINGS [i.e. the above- mentioned co-author with Josh Pollard], 'Virtual archaeology and the hyperreal: or, what does it mean to describe something as virtually-real?' IN P.FISHER & D. UNWIN (eds), Virtual Reality in Geography (Taylor & Francis, London, 2003, pp 17-34)