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Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Castell Mawr -- a Neolithic henge?



Castell Mawr, a site just to the south of Castell Henllys in Pembrokeshire, is described in most of the textbooks a classic Iron Age hillfort.   It's certainly very impressive.   However, it's been pointed out by various people that in 2003 Harold Mytum and Chris Webster, archaeologists from the Universities of York and Southampton, published a report of their earlier geophysical survey (1988) of the site which suggested  that Castell Mawr could be reinterpreted as a Late Neolithic/Early Bronze Age henge, which was later re-used in the Iron Age as an enclosed farmstead.  That sounds reasonable, given that the site is not all that well defended.  There is no external ditch to deter attackers, but a massive internal one between 10 and 15m wide and still up to 3m deep in places.  

Some digging has been going on there in recent years in conjunction with the work at Rhosyfelin.  In his talks MPP has suggested that there is a big henge at Castell Mawr which is earlier than Stonehenge;  no doubt we will see reports of the dig in due course, when National Geographic gives its permission...........

As reported earlier on this blog, there has been a hunt for stones or stone sockets -- since MPP has a theory that the stones from the wonderful Rhosyfelin "Quarry" were taken there and erected as a proto-Stonehenge before being dismantled and carted off to Salisbury Plain.   Last year it looked as if the hunt for stones had drawn a blank.......

Mike says this in one of his articles:

"It is just possible that there is indeed a Neolithic ceremonial centre in the Nevern valley in the form of a suspected henge beneath the later prehistoric hillfort of Castell Mawr (Mytum and Webster, 2003). With a maximum diameter of 160m, this earthwork would be the largest henge in Wales if it is indeed from the period of Stonehenge. Only excavation will tell whether it is associated with a dismantled stone circle."

http://www.ai-journal.com/article/view/ai.1601/355

And here is the link to the article by Mytum and Webster:

Mytum, H and Webster, C 2003 Geophysical surveys at defended enclosures in the neighbourhood of Castell Henllys, Pembrokeshire. 

http://www.coflein.gov.uk/pdf/AENT17_06/

Extract:

Description
 

Castell Mawr is not truly circular but sub-triangular with vertices to the north, southeast
and south-west. The interior is divided by a cross-bank in two straight into two
unequal areas. A large bank marks the boundary of the site, in places rising 2m above
the ground surface outside the Castell; there is no surface evidence of an external
ditch, but in contrast there is a massive internal one concentric with the bank. This
ditch is between 10 and 15m wide and still up to 3 m deep on the south side. Along
some stretches of the inner edge of the ditch there are traces of another bank. This
survives best on either side of the northern entrance where it is 3 m wide and 0.75m
high but in other places it is very low and gives the appearance of a plough headland.
Even at its best the inner bank is no larger than a field bank, and its antiquity is far
from certain.
There are at present three entrances, and of these, the one at the southern end of the
crossbank is almost certainly modern. The other southern entrance appears to be
original with a well-made causeway across the ditch, although the ditch terminals are
rectangular, which may indicate that the causeway was built across the ditch rather
than being left undug. The situation at the northern entrance is unclear because of
erosion but there is little sign of a causeway. The northern entrance is used as the
present gateway to the field and may have been adapted and widened.
The cross-bank runs, in two straight sections, from the north-east to the south side of
the Castell. The northern and southern sections are well preserved but the central part
is denuded. There is evidence for an external ditch 5m wide and up to 1.5m deep on
the west, well preserved except at the southern end where it appears to have suffered
from later quarrying. To the north the external ditch is more silted but still visible.
The junctions of the cross-bank and its ditch with the main enclosure suggest that they
are later features. At the south the ditch of the cross-bank does not join the main ditch
and the bank stops on the lip, whilst at the north end the relationship between the
ditches is unclear because of erosion but again the cross-bank seems to stop on the lip
of the main ditch.

6 comments:

chris johnson said...

Very curious to hear what MPP reveals in his talk. I hope you are going?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Can't get there tonight, I'm afraid. Not that I'm too upset about that -- if previous talks are anything to go by, too little science and too much fantasy for my liking, as you might have gathered. No doubt somebody who is present will send us a report of the proceedings! If you will be there, Chris, feel free to let us know what transpires.

chris johnson said...

I am afraid I will not be attending, so hopefully somebody will.

PeteG said...

how much?
http://blog.histouries.co.uk/2010/09/23/experts-to-gather-for-stonehenge-debate/

Jon Morris said...

since MPP has a theory that the stones from the wonderful Rhosyfelin "Quarry" were taken there and erected as a proto-Stonehenge

Can't help but feel he's on the wrong track about this. It would be interesting to know why he thinks that (though I guess it's logical conclusion, at first sight, if you believe that the stones were brought from nearby).

Anyone going?

BRIAN JOHN said...

Not me -- Inger needed the car this evening, so I'm confined to quarters. But I looked in on the dig on the way home before supper. Seriously interesting. This is beginning to look like a classic Pleistocene site. More to be reported.......