Prehistoric Defended Settlements

Project No. G1770

This pan-Wales project was designed to provide an up to date overview of all prehistoric defended settlement sites, both as regard their interpretation, value and preservation. This would identify priorities for protection and recording as well as suggesting avenues for future research. A scoping study was carried out in 2003-4 and a survey methodology was agreed by discussion between the WATs. The area covered by GAT comprised about 120 known prehistoric defended settlements of which 61 were Scheduled Ancient Monuments and the survey was designed to be completed over two years: in 2004-5 in West Conwy, north Gwynedd (Arfon) and Anglesey; and in 2005-6 in west Gwynedd (Dwyfor) and Meirionnydd.

The work in 2004-5 West Conwy, north Gwynedd (Arfon) and Anglesey included about 62 monuments of which 30 were Scheduled Ancient Monuments. It was agreed that about 1 in 4 of the scheduled sites should be visited, altogether making up about 40 sites to be visited. Desktop research and data compilation was first carried out and field visits were then made. In addition, as an agreed part of the work, geophysical survey was carried out by David Hopewell of GAT at two selected sites. One of these was a Scheduled Ancient Monument, Dinas Dinlle, a bivallate coast-edge hillfort south of Caernarfon. The other was a bivallate hillfort in ploughed farmland at Y Werthyr, Anglesey, known mainly as a crop mark. The work at both sites was very productive. At Dinas Dinlle at least one new internal building was identified and it was shown that blown sand was masking any possible features at the west side of the site, an area threatened by natural erosion. There was no evidence of burning of the ramparts or entrance.

At Y Werthyr good details of the defences and entrance were revealed as well as an arc of four round houses. Preservation was therefore much better than was expected, suggesting that the site deserved further investigation and that it, and probably other sites in similar situations were of greater value than previously indicated. The survey records were entered onto a database and a report on the work was produced

George Smith