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Thursday, 8 December 2016

Garn Fawr ring cairn

I found this wonderful photo the other day, showing Garn Fawr, a spectacular crag on Pen Caer, looking out over the coast at Pwll Deri towards St David's Head in the distance.  In this photo, Pwll Deri YHA is just off the photo to the left.

Normally the centre of attention is the Iron Age hillfort or fortified settlement site on the summit, but very prominent in this photo is a circular embanked feature on the hillslope below.  There are also traces of other curved or looped embankments below it.

In the Coflein and Archwilio records there are no mentions of this circular feature, which I suppose should be dated to the Bronze age.  Or could it be an Iron Age feature, connected to the fort?  On these RCAHM photos we can see the "ring cairn" quite clearly.  Does anybody know anything about it?


Dave Maynard said...

Is this the one you're looking for?

Ysgubor Gaer

I remember reading an article a long time ago about hillforts paired with smaller defended enclosures. I forget the reference, maybe it was Hogg, but I'm sure Gaer Fawr was mentioned there as an example.

Perhaps it is the derivation of the names Gaer Fawr, with this being the 'little' one?


cysgodycastell said...

It is well known and marked as Ysgubor Gaer on OS maps. Although overgrown it is very visible from the footpath that runs around the contour just above it.

BRIAN JOHN said...

Thank you guys -- that's very helpful. Spot on! I am obviously not patient enough when searching the Coflein data base...... it's referred to as an Iron Age defended enclosure. The field walls to east and west do seem to be parts of an outer curved defensive embankment.

The association between ring cairn and fortified hill summit is an interesting one. On Carningli there are several very clear hut circles close to the hill fort, but they are rather flimsy structures in comparison to Ysgubor Gaer, which seems to have a substantial embankment. There are ring cairns on Carningli, but they are much further away. So is this all much more complicated than an old Bronze Age landscape with hut circles and enclosures being followed by the development of an Iron Age fortified settlement?

This has also got me thinking about place names. Ysgubor Gaer would mean "the granary of the fort" -- which makes a lot of sense....... But I notice that on Coflein the spectacular Garn Fawr hillfort is also named Gaer Fawr -- which would not mean "the big rocky hill" but "the big fort".

I wonder whether Carningli might originally have been called "Caer Ingli"? That would not have meant "the rocky hill of the angels" but maybe "Ingli's fort" -- with "Ingli" being the personal name of a chieftain rather than a corrupted version of the old Welsh name for angels.

Intruguing thoughts......

Dave Maynard said...

Just east of the main site is 'Garn Fechan', also a defended enclosure, so we have 'big' and 'little'versions.