The Journal Of Antiquities

Ancient Sites In Great Britain & Southern Ireland


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Din Lligwy Ancient Settlement, Near Moelfre, Anglesey, Wales

House foundations at   Din Lligwy by Velela (Wikimedia Commons).

   OS Grid Reference: SH 49717 86134. At the eastern edge of Coed cae’r-gaer woods near Rhos Lligwy, Anglesey, stands the well-preserved ancient settlement of Din Lligwy, dating for the most part from the 3rd and 4th centuries AD when it was occupied by a Romano-British tribe, though the first settlers here were people from the late Iron Age period. Set within a walled enclosure there are a couple of hut circles, rectangular structures, and a gatehouse-type building at the entrance. The site is located to the east of the A5025 road about 1 mile west of Moelfre, and not far from the east coast of Anglesey. A little to the northeast of Din Lligwy is Hen Capel Lligwy, a ruined medieval chapel while just over to the east stands the Lligwy Neolithic burial chamber. There is a car-parking area and information boards on the lane over to the east of the site, and a footpath run to the west for 300m, passing close to the ruined chapel, and then to Din Lligwy ancient settlement which nestles in a woodland clearing.

Plan of Din Lligwy Ancient Settlement, Anglesey.

   The ancient settlement or village of Din Lligwy covers about ½ an acre and measures roughly 56m x 53m and is pentagonal-shaped (with five-sides). It sits upon a limestone plateau at the edge of a low hill. Although its limestone walls were built for a partly defensive (fortified) purpose at the time, its more likely they were simply built to ‘enclose’ the buildings, but they obviously followed the standard pattern of earlier Iron Age construction. Inside the enclosure walls are two well-preserved hut circles, or round-houses, built from large limestone slabs around the sides, and also four rectangular-shaped buildings, one of which was perhaps the chieftain’s house, while beside the original entrance (NE side) another building that was probably a gate-house; the entrance (SW side) is later as is the little exterior building. The enclosure walls are a staggering 4-5 feet thick.

    Jacquetta Hawkes in her work ‘A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales’, says of this site that: “Within a stout enclosure wall, there is a group of houses, two of them circular, but the rest rectangular in plan and all spacious, splendidly built and almost intact. Nearly all the walls show a massive construction with an inner and outer facing of large slabs and a packing of smaller stones. Din Lligwy shows signs of having buildings of more than one period, but it is known to have been inhabited during the Roman occupation down to the fourth century A.D.; it must surely have been the stronghold of some chieftain of unusual standing—one would like to think that the lord himself lived in the larger round house, a place quite worthy to rank as a Celtic palace.”

   The author Christopher Houlder writing in 1978 says of Din Lligwy: “The two round huts used as living quarters are likely to have been part of an open settlement of early Roman date, included in the strong pentagonal enclosure in the late IV century A.D. Six hearths in two of the rectangular buildings show that they were used for iron workshops, but one was a gatehouse.”

   We don’t know much about the people who lived at Din Lligwy apart from they were Romano-British, but they were probably subservient to the Romans and almost certainly supplied the army with iron weapons and tools made in their own smelting workshops. In this case, then, they were very useful to the Romans and so were more or less left in peace. To the people of Din Lligwy though this situation ‘served as a means to an end’. Then at some point between 385-400 AD they abandoned their settlement/homestead. The Roman army withdrew back to Gaul at about the same time. “There is no evidence that this outstanding site was lived in after about AD 400”, according to Harold Priestley (1976). The site was excavated between 1905-7 when “finds here have included Roman pottery and coins which may be an indication that the occupants were on friendly terms with the Romans”, says Chris Barber (1987).

   Hen Capel Lligwy (Old Lligwy Chapel) over to the northeast is a ruined 12th century chapel with some interesting Norman features. On the opposite side of the lane to the east (at OS grid ref: SH 50135 86039) is the Lligwy Neolithic burial chamber or cromlech. This has a huge capstone that is said to be 18 feet in length, and weighing 28 tons, according to Janet & Colin Bord (1994). “When excavated, the remains of 30 persons were discovered together with animal bones and pottery”, says Harold Priestley (1976).

Sources of information and related websites:-

Barber, Chris, More Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London, 1987.

Bord, Janet & Colin, Ancient Mysteries of Britain, Diamond Books, 1994.

Hawkes, Jacquetta,  A Guide To The Prehistoric And Roman Monuments In England And Wales, Cardinal (Sphere Books Ltd., London, 1975.

Houlder, Christopher, Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber & Faber, London, 1978. 

Priestley, Harold, The Observer’s Book of Ancient & Roman Britain, Warne & Co Ltd., London, 1976.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Din_Lligwy

http://www.megalithic.co.uk/article.php?sid=1494

http://www.anglesey-hidden-gem.com/din-lligwy.html

http://cadw.gov.wales/daysout/dinlligwyhutgroup/?lang=en

http://www.coflein.gov.uk/en/site/95541/details/din-lligwy-settlement-moelfre

                                                                                         © Ray Spencer, The Journal Of Antiquities, 2017.

 


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Babyhouse Lane Ancient Settlement, Cononley, North Yorkshire

Babyhouse Lane Settlement from the south-west.

Babyhouse Lane Settlement from the south-west.

    OS grid reference: SD 9719 4628. On the hills a mile or so to the south-west of Cononley, north Yorkshire, near the top end of Babyhouse Lane there is an Iron Age settlement or camp. This is thought to have been a Brigantian outpost that was still in use in the late 1st century AD when Roman soldiers marched along the Roman road to the south-west and set up their fort at Elslack. For a time the Brigantes got on to some extent with the Romans, but that was not to last for long and their settlements were soon to be abandoned, forever. Babyhouse Lane can be reached from Colne Road (A6068) near the Dog & Gun public house at Glusburn. Take the lane up onto Leys Lane, turning left at the top onto Babyhouse Lane, and then just after the junction of four lanes and the wooded area on the right, go through the second farm-gate and into the large walled field – here before you are the faint and grassy earthworks of the ancient settlement.

Babyhouse Lane Settle-ment viewed from SE.

Babyhouse Lane Settle-ment viewed from SE.

    At ground level there isn’t a great deal to see apart from a few raised areas (low ramparts) in the middle of the field and, what are probably ditches around the edges; and the earthworks continue just beyond the wall at the N side. This pentagonal-shaped settlement measures approx. 91m x 85m and covers an area of just over 1 acre. At the W and S sides the ditch is more prominent – just before the land rises forming the bank (which seems not to be part of the earthwork), while over at the E side there is what could be an entrance. The settlement appears to be strategically placed to overlook the Aire Gap to the north-west. And the modern-day walls surrounding the earthworks give this former Brigantian, possible Romano-British settle-ment, the look of “still” being an enclosed site, even if today it is only to keep the sheep in! Sadly nothing much else is known about this site.

Babyhouse Lane Settlement viewed from the East.

Babyhouse Lane Settlement viewed from the East.

    The late John Dixon in his work ‘Journeys Through Brigantia’ , Volume One, says of the settlement here: “Just down Babyhouse Lane, over on the left, are the earthwork remains of an Iron Age/Romano-British settlement site, the earliest home of man in the area, being a pentagonal dtched earthwork with an entrance on the east and covering just over one acre.” While the author and antiquarian Harry Speight considered the ancient settlement on Babyhouse Lane to be of Danish origins. There are indeed some Scandinavian place-names around this area. Cononley is named after King Canute, according to Mr Speight. But it would seem that this is a late Iron Age-Romano-British site; and there are similar earthworks at Higher Scarcliff and Catlow Gill near Carleton Lane Head, a couple of miles to the north.

Sources:

Dixon, John & Philip., Journeys Through Brigantia, Volume One, Walks in Craven, Airedale and Wharfedale, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.

Check out this web blog by Jim Jarratt:  http://www.jimjarratt.co.uk/walks/beaconsway/section2.html


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Aedmar’s Mound And Earthworks, Blacko, Lancashire

Aedmer's Mound at Admergill, near Blacko, Lancashire.

Aedmar’s Mound at Admergill, near Blacko, Lancashire.

    OS grid reference: SD 84829 41718. For want of a better name I am calling this site ‘Aedmar’s Mound Earthworks’. These earthworks or ringworks are located down in a narrow valley, in a field above Blacko Water, near Wheathead Lane, just to the west of Blacko and Gisburn road, Lancashire, in the area called Admergill. A trackway heads off from Wheathead Lane at the bridge and then goes in a south-westerly direction for a short distance, and eventually through a wall stile – the earthworks are in the field (here) at the western-side of the beck – being noticeable by the grassy rectangular mound with its accompanying low ramparts, known as ringworks. These now rather forgotten earthworks may date back to the Iron-Age, or from the so-called Dark-Ages, or from the early Medieval period, but other than that we do not know when these earthworks were built or what they actually were; and they are not marked on any Ordnance Survey maps.

Aedmar's Mound / Earthworks viewed from the south-east.

Aedmar’s Mound / Earthworks viewed from the south-east.

    The earthworks cover an area of approx. 94m across N-S and 60m diagonally W-S though the S and N sides are cut-off and damaged by the farmer’s ‘modern’ field system, while at the NW side of the site there is a continuation of the low ringwork ramparts. The rectangular-shaped low mound ‘with the telegraph pole’ is quite a distinctive shape, but there are actually two mounds here – both being intersected in the middle by a deep ditch, or entrance. So what was it exactly? Was it a camp, a hillfort, or a defended site? Or was there a settlement here or maybe a royal residence of some kind? There appears to be at least three circular ramparts or ring-works and, possibly a fourth ring by the looks of it, surrounding the low, grassy elevated mound, and the same again at the far NW side but in a sort of square-shape, which has been cut off from the main site, possibly due to farming, or that it was meant to be like this?

    Local author, John Clayton, in his fascinating book ‘Valley of the Drawn Sword’, says that Admergill could possibly take its name from: “the Welsh prince A’dd Maur who controlled certain British lands sometime in the Early Medieval period, it is very possible that this name has been shortened over time to Mawr….but equally, it could apply to the nearby settlement of Admergill…..which eventually leads to A’dd Mawr’s Gill.”

Aedmar's Mound, Blacko, with ditch through the middle.

Aedmar’s Mound, Blacko, with ditch through the middle.

    But what of Aedmar and Eadmer two names that may be connected with this area, in which our ancient site lies.  St Aedmer or Eadmer was a bishop, ecclesiastic, and theologian who died in 1126, and was a friend of St Anselm. Was it “he” who gave his name to Admergill. And, there was a 7th century St Eadmer, a Northumbrian monk and disciple of St Cuthbert. But the truth is we don’t know, and probably never will – the name being lost in the mists of time. I think we should, therefore, say that the Welsh prince A’dd Mawr (Athmawr) is the more liklely contender here. He may have ruled over the Celtic (British) kingdom of Craven – Admergill being at the southern edge of this northern kingdom. And 2 miles to the north we have a farm called Craven Laithe!

    About 1 mile to the north on the southern side of Burn Moor a bowl-shaped quern stone was found, dating from 300-400 BCE (the middle Iron-Age). Grain would have been rubbed in the central depression with a small, rounded stone or pestle. In the vicinity of this discovery there were found to be a number of ancient boulders, some being built into walls (Clayton, John A, 2006).

Sources:

Clayton, John A., The Valley of the Drawn Sword – The Early History of Burnley, Pendle and West Craven, Barrowford Press, 2006.

Dixon, John & Mann, Bob, Historic Walks Around The Pendle Way, Aussteiger Publications, Barnoldswick, 1990.


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Llangorse Lake And Crannog, Powys, Wales

Crannog on Llangorse Lake (photo credit: Pam Fray - for Geograph)

Crannog on Llangorse Lake (photo credit: Pam Fray – for Geograph)

   Os grid reference: SO 1287 2689. About 37 metres from the northern shoreline of Llangorse Lake (Llyn Safaddan), Powys, also known as “Savaddan Lake and Lake of Brycheiniog” (Bord, Janet & Colin, 1986), lies the tiny man-made island of Ynys Bwlc, which is in fact a crannog, a Dark Age island settlement, dating probably from about the beginning of the 10th century, or maybe earlier, which would have once supported a royal residence for the king of Brycheiniog. The lake is said to be the second largest natural lake in Wales, being formed at the last Ice-Age many thousands of years ago; the River Llynfi (Afon Llyfni) enters at the far south-eastern side of the lake and then, rather strangely flows out of the lake at the far northwestern side, close by the caravan park. The lake is 1 mile long and 5 miles in circumference.

    Llangorse lake and crannog can be reached on a country lane to the west of Llangorse village, heading south close to the caravan park, which brings you out at ‘The Welsh Crannog Centre’. A few miles to the south is the village of Llansantffraed while the town of Brecon lies some 4 miles to the west and, at the south-side of the lake stands the ancient church of St Gastyn at Llangasty Tal-y-Llyn. The place-name Llangorse is nowadays ‘often’ shortened to Llangors.

Llangorse Lake viewed from Mynydd Llangorse (photo credit: Velella for Wikipedia)

Llangorse Lake viewed from Mynydd Llangorse (photo credit: Velella for Wikipedia)

And the lake is also the setting for a number of myths and legends – including one that says the lake is the location for the submerged Roman city of Loventium, but in early medieval history it was known as ‘Brecenenmere’. In 1925 a 25 foot-long wooden dug-out canoe was excavated from the mud near the northern shore of the lake, and in 1990 a second dug-out boat was excavated from close by. These have been dated from between the 8th and 11th centuries AD. In the 12th century Gerald of Wales (Giraldus Cambrensis) visited the lake and made mention in his great work ‘The Journey Through Wales/The Description Of Wales’ of the abundance of fish and also how miraculous it was and, the numerous strange colours that the lake water takes on at certain times. And the lake has long been associated with fairies, very large eels, and a witch who lived beside the lake and was known to frighten-away naughty children!

   Giraldus, who was a medieval historian, claimed that birds living around the lake would only sing ‘when a rightful prince returns to rule the area’. At this time the area was ruled over by King Henry I of England. One day the king was walking along the lake’s shoreline in the presence of two Norman lords and the Welsh prince Gruffydd ap Rhys, but he noticed that all the birds were silent. He then commanded them to sing – they ignored him, but when Prince Rhys asked them to sing – they sang merrily! Near the southern shores of Llangorse lake, near Bwlc, can be found the crumbling remains of Blaenllyfni Castle, a 12th century Norman foundation.

   “The tiny man-made island was first identified as a crannog in 1876 by E.N. Dumbleton”, according to Chris Barber in his work ‘More Mysterious Wales’. The almost round-shaped tree-covered crannog at the northern side of Llangorse Lake is thought to date from c890 AD. It was probably destroyed in either 911 AD or 916 AD possibly by King Alfred’s daughter Ethelflaed (Lady of the Mercians), when according to legend, they “took the king’s wife and thirty-three others prisoner” (Hughes, Wendy, 1995). However, some historians and archaeologists believe it could, in fact, be of an earlier date, maybe 7th-9th century? There is, however, some reason to suspect an Iron Age ‘crannog’ here, artificially improved with stakes as a lake-dwelling like those at Glastonbury and Meare in Somerset (Houlder, Christopher, 1978).

   According to legend a palace is said to lie beneath the waves. Long ago a ruthless princess ruled at the palace; she married a poor man from the town, but the agreement was that ‘he would bring her lots of gold’. In sheer desperation the man robbed and killed a rich merchant. When he returned to the palace with his spoils the princess immediately married him, but then shortly afterwards the murdered man’s ghost began haunting the place and, later warned the newly-married couple that their crime would be avenged, and this would fall heavily on the ninth generation of their descendants. However the princess and her husband became even more greedy and wicked – their lust for wealth being unceasing. The warning eventually came true and the palace was inundated by a deluge of water from the nearby hills which had been triggered by an earthquake – drowning both palace and town – the ninth generation of the family including the princess and her husband were killed, according to “the” legend.

   Local people claim to have seen the foundations of submerged buildings when the water-level is low in drought conditions and, they also claim to have heard the eerie sounds of church bells ringing out from below the waves in very stormy conditions when there is a heavy swell on the water.

   At the north-side of the crannog there is a sort of stone jetty which indicates where a wooden causeway once existed – linking the island to the shoreline. The artificial island measures ‘roughly’ 50m x 55m and is “set upon a base of stones and brushwood” (Figgis, N. P., 1995), and built of willow branches and reeds – with sturdy wooden piles sunk up to 7 metres down into the lake bed. It would ‘probably’ have been defended with a double row of wooden palisades. “Fragments of pottery, implements and animal bones” (Hughes, Wendy, 1995) have been found beneath the crannog during recent archaeological excavations, including the one by Time Team in 1993, and earlier in 1991 a few fragmentary metal parts from a small portable house-shaped reliquary/shrine were found during underwater excavations at the crannog; and there are also apparently traces of hut circles on the island.

Dead Men's Boats by N.P. Figgis (Atelier Productions), 1995.

Dead Men’s Boats by N.P. Figgis (Atelier Productions), 1995.

   In 1925 a 25 foot-long wooden dug-out canoe was excavated from the mud at the northern edge of the lake at (OS grid ref: roughly SO 132 269) which ‘was’ considered to be of a early medieval date, maybe 8th-11th centuries, and so a bit more recent than the lake crannog? The dug-out canoe can be seen on display in the Brecon Museum and a replica is at The Welsh Crannog Centre on the lake’s north-western shoreline, close by the crannog. And then in 1990 second similar dug-out boat was excavated from the lake near where the first had been found. But these dug-out boats have their origins in the Iron-Age. The canoe was eventually radio carbon dated to centre on 814 AD, so there is a strong possibility that the sample dates from somewhere between the years AD 754 and 874 AD, according to author N.P. Figgis.

   The dug-out canoe was excavated 1 metre down in the mud by a local man Mr Thomas Jenkins, and his sons. Author N.P. Figgis in his book ‘Dead Men’s Boats’ says: “The boat they brought ashore was a long, thin dug-out canoe. Her prow had broken off, and one side had caved in, and the stern was a step-shaped, heavy block; she was not like any modern craft”.

   Christopher Houlder in his excellent archaeological guide book: ‘Wales: An Archaeological Guide’, with regard to the dug-out canoe says that: “Though of primitive type it may be only medieval in date, used for access to the island near the N. shore for fishing and similar purposes”.

At the south-side of Llangorse Lake is the hamlet of Llangasty Tal-y-Llyn (OS grid ref: SO 1331 2613) and a mid-19th century church (on the site of an earlier medieval foundation) dedicated to St Gastyn. The churchyard looks to be almost circular in shape, indicative of a sacred site. St Gastyn was a Celtic hermit who founded the first “llan” here in the mid-5th century AD and was apparently the tutor to some of the many children of the saintly King Brychan, who ruled ‘this’ area, which became known as Brecknock (Brycheiniog).

Sources:

http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/1823433 © Copyright pam fray and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Llangorse_Lake

Barber, Chris., More Mysterious Wales, Paladin, London W1X, 1987.

Bord, Janet & Colin., Sacred Waters, Paladin, London W1X, 1986.

Dumbleton, E.N., On a Crannog, or Stockaded Island, in Llangorse Lake, near Brecon, Archaeologia Cambrensis, 4th series, vol 1, part 3, 1870.

Figgis, N. P., Dead Men’s Boats, Atelier Productions, Machynlleth, Wales, 1995.

Gerald of Wales., The Journey Through Wales/The Description Of Wales, Penguin Books Ltd., London WC2R, 1978.

Houlder, Christopher., Wales: An Archaeological Guide, Faber and Faber Limited, London WC1, 1978.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/kJyO0xSbTlCmDBtWr3cnsQ

Hughes, Wendy., The Story of Brecknock, Gwasg Carreg Gwalch, Llanrwst, Gwynedd, Wales, 1995.


Talati de Dalt, Algendar, Minorca, Balearic Islands

Talati de Dalt Burial Tomb, Minorca, Balearics

Longitude 39.892946. Latitude 4.215006. The megalithic monument of Talati de Dalt or Taula Talaiot de Talati de Dalt on the south-eastern side of the island of Menorca (Minorca), is located some 300-400 metres south of the C-721 Carretera de Ciutadella Mahon highway – a little to the east of Talati de Dalt hamlet. The site is about two miles west of the town of Mahon (Mao) and half a mile east of Algendar village. It is partly surrounded on the southern side by the ruins of an ancient settlement (talaiot) and some defensive walls that would originally have had a watchtower. The taula monument (table tomb) and it’s associated village or settlement are thought to date back to the Copper-Age 3,000-1,6000 BC, which was a part of the Bronze-Age. The settlement appears to have been re-occupied “again” sometime between 400-200 BC – the Celtic period of the Iron-Age.

The prehistoric village complex of Talati comprises of a number of excavated houses with rooms, some having slab-stones that are still standing and stone-flagged floors – around which are the low ruins of defensive walls. It is conjectured that upto one hundred Celtic-Talayotic people lived here in what would have been a “covered enclosure”. Some of the buildings have not, as yet, been excavated. There are also subterranean caves in the hillside here with hypostylic, columned burial chambers or halls that are hewn out of the caves and, a connecting underground settlement. This has massive stone slabs for its roof. It can be better seen from the south-west side of the taula monument where stone steps lead on down through a large stone doorway connected to two underground chambers for burial purposes – the taula  (above ground) being connected to this underground burial complex probably as a shrine-cum-altar?

Talatí de Dalt archaeological site, Minorca, Spain

Talatí de Dalt, Minorca, Spain (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the central horseshoe-shaped sanctuary stands the taula which resembles a sort of “T” shaped table tomb. This strange looking monument has a fashioned central capital stone and an oval-shaped base that is topped by a large rectangular, overlapping stone very similar to a capstone for a burial chamber. Another carved taula (pilaster) leans against the monument but does not, in any way support the taula –  it almost certainly used to stand up-right but has now fallen sideways. Three more standing stones are located around the monument. The taula acted as a sort of shrine, altar-stone, or tomb-marker for the burial chambers that lie beneath it. Talati de Dalt is almost certainly the prettiest and best of all the archaeological sites on the Island of Minorca.