FIELD EVALUATION OF SCHEDULING PROPOSALS (G2246) - CEMLYN CROPMARK

A cropmark was identified on an aerial photograph in 1990 during drought conditions. The photograph was taken by local archivist, historian and aerial photographer Mary Aris. It showed a small hilltop enclosure, with hints of internal features, and two concentric banks. The site is located 1 km from Cemlyn Bay on the north coast of Anglesey.

A geophysical survey was carried out at the site by David Hopewell and John Burman as part of GAT's 2014-15 Cadw grant-aided programme. The survey revealed a rectangular enclosure with dimensions of 45m x 50m and strongly rounded corners with a slightly in-turning entrance in the centre of the north side. Traces of several rectangular buildings were detected in the interior. The site appears to be a typical Roman fortlet and is similar to examples found further south in Wales, at Erglodd and Waen Ddu. Both of these are about 50m square and have either one entrance or two opposing entrances.

The fortlet is surrounded by a slightly meandering sub-circular ditched enclosure, 74m in diameter. This was initially thought to be an earlier prehistoric enclosure but comparison with fortlets from further afield produced some striking parallels. A string of four Roman installations along the north coast of Cornwall and Devon at Old Burrow, Martinhoe, Morwenstow and St Gennys are variously described as signal stations and fortlets. Martinhoe is the best documented and comprises a 42m square fortlet with sub-circular outer defences that are almost identical to those at Cemlyn. The fortlet contained two barracks and was probably garrisoned by a century of soldiers. There was evidence of possible signal fires within the outer enclosure. Pottery from excavations at the site showed that it was used between AD 55 and 75. These sites are usually interpreted as Roman fortlets, with a possible additional role as signal stations associated with shipping.

The details of the Cemlyn fortlet would suggest, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that it was associated with the Roman conquest of Anglesey by Julius Agricola in AD 77, or constructed shortly after. This is the first Roman military site to be found on Anglesey from this period, and is therefore a particularly exciting discovery, especially as its presence would suggest other associated sites await detection. Other fortlets in Wales are close to Roman roads so this could indicate the presence of a route across Anglesey passing close-by. Fortlets were also usually garrisoned with troops from a nearby fort a day's march away. It is therefore possible that the fortlet at Cemlyn was associated with an, as yet undiscovered, Roman fort somewhere in central Anglesey.

 

 

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