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News 2006

Carmarthen: The Oldest Town in Wales (added July 2006)

Carmarthen Book Cover Carmarthen Book Contents

Text by Gwilym Hughes and including illustrations by Neil Ludlow and Photographs by Ray Edgar

Dyfed Archaeological Trust is delighted to announce the publication of a booklet highlighting the rich archaeological and built heritage of Carmarthen. The publication has been supported by grants from Carmarthenshire County Council and Cadw and is in full colour with many excellent reconstruction images of Carmarthen past by Neil Ludlow. The booklet outlines the history of Carmarthen from the establishment of a Roman fort in the late first century AD and the subsequent development of a major Roman town. The story then covers the twin medieval towns of Old and New Carmarthen before describing the more recent heritage of the post-medieval and modern periods. Throughout the booklet, the principal sources of evidence are described, such as buried archaeology, documents, historic maps, and the town plan itself.

Drawing by Neil Ludlow

The booklet is available from Dyfed Archaeological Trust at a price of £3 from The Shire Hall, Llandeilo or for £4 (including P&P) by mail – for more details phone 01558 823121.


 

 

Pembroke Castle (April 2006)

Pembroke Castle

This dig is an ‘evaluation’, which is a small archaeological excavation to see whether there are any buried remains here. The reason for the evaluation is that a new café is going to be built here, with better services and facilities for visitors. But as this area lies inside the outer bailey of the castle, it is highly likely that buried remains will be present. The outer bailey is where the castle’s service buildings would have stood, so new building on this site will disturb any remains.

The aim is to see what remains there are and then work out the best way of protecting them. It may be that a full archaeological excavation will be necessary.

Pembroke Castle illustration

The picture shows the castle as it might have been in the Middle Ages (but before the outer bailey was walled in stone). You can see that it was crowded with buildings including barns, storerooms, stables, work-shops and animal pens, and a dovecot is mentioned in a medieval document. A garden is also mentioned as having been here. So building a café will, in a way, give the castle more of the sort of look that it had in the Middle Ages.

We don’t know exactly where all these buildings were, but in some dry summers outlines of walls can be seen in the grass where it dries out over buried rubble. In other areas of the outer bailey, the buried remains may already have been damaged or even removed by earlier disturbances. So this is why it is important to dig – there may be a lot here, or there may be nothing. The dig is on behalf of the Pembroke Castle Trust.

 

Pembroke Castle Map


 

A 4000 year old 'flower' burial on the Black Mountain (March 2006)

View of Fan Foel from Llanddeusant
View of Fan Foel from Llanddeusant

 

The Excavation
The Excavation

 

The Kerb
The Kerb

The Pottery Urn
The Pottery Urn

 

New results from the excavation of a Bronze Age burial mound on the Black Mountain in Carmarthenshire, have provided a detailed insight into a moving burial ceremony over 4000 years ago.

The excavation took place on Fan Foel, above Llyn y Fan Fach, itself the origin of the ‘Lady in the Lake’ myth, and it was carried out by, Llandeilo-based, Dyfed Archaeological Trust. Prior to the excavation, it was noticed that the monument was being slowly destroyed by a combination of the weather and the hundreds of walkers who climb the mountain every year.

‘Visitors were collecting stones from the monument and creating their own mini-cairn’, explained Gwilym Hughes, Director of Dyfed Archaeological Trust. ‘The only solution was to excavate and record the vulnerable parts of the site and protect the remainder from further damage’.

The fieldwork was undertaken in the summer of 2004 with funding from Cadw and the Brecon Beacons National Park Authority. At the centre of the burial mound, the archaeologists examined the contents of a large rectangular stone built cist that had been covered by a large capstone. The cist contained cremated bone, a pottery urn, a bone pin and several flint tools. The bone includes that of a young child, perhaps no more than 12 years old. However, a surprise was that the deposit also contained the burnt bones of two pigs and possibly a dog. The cremated bone has now been radiocarbon dated to about 2000BC by the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, thanks to the award of a grant from Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum of Wales. Further radiocarbon dates tell us that a second burial was later inserted into the side of the burial mound.

The latest analysis has been of the soil surrounding the burial by specialists from the University of Lampeter. The dentification of microscopic pollen grains in the soil have shown that the burial was accompanied by a floral tribute of meadowsweet, which has attractive clusters of cream-white flowers. According to Adam Gwilt, Curator of the Bronze and Iron Age Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales, the discovery, ‘gives a tenderness to otherwise remote and impersonal burial rites’. Incredibly, precisely the same burial ritual, with cremated bone, pottery and meadowsweet flowers in a stone cist, have been found as far away as the Orkneys and Perthshire in Scotland. Clearly the upland areas of Britain in the early Bronze Age maintained common traditions when it came to death.

The pollen analysis at Fan Foel has also given a rich insight into the vegetation of the mountain at the time of the burial. ‘The landscape was already largely open heathland and grassland when the cairn was built’, says Astrid Caseldine of the University of Lampeter. ‘However’, she adds, ‘there was also evidence that the heathland had been deliberately burnt, which may represent ritual activity associated with the burials’.

At Fan Foel the burial mound would have been visible to the scattered farming communities that were located in the area around Myddfai and Llanddeusant 4000 years ago. We can only speculate as to who the young child was or why he or she died. Perhaps he or she was the child of a local chieftain; certainly someone commanding a status that required a complex burial ritual and subsequent memorial. There is no doubt that the rugged peaks of the Carmarthenshire Vans will continue to conceal many of their secrets and fuel the great myths and legends of this outstanding landscape.


The cist at Fan Foel during excavation
The cist at Fan Foel during excavation

 


 

 

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