|The earliest evidence
of mankind in Wales dates back before the last ice age in
the form of stone tools, bones and such like but no
structures survive from before the last major glaciation,
although the findings at Paviland Cave (below) give an
insight into this period.
The new stone age, however, has left
many structures in the form of burial chambers (or
Cromlechs). A selection of these chambers are shown
Bronze age standing stones and stone
circles (as well as field patterns) replaced the
neolithic burial chambers over time.
You will also see some pictures of
hill forts dating from the Iron Age. There are many hill
forts to be seen in Wales and they are easily found,
being sited on prominent and defensible locations.
Pentre Ifan Cromlech
Perhaps the best known of any of
the neolithic burial chambers anywhere in the world is
Pentre Ifan Cromlech, located on the barren hillside of
Preseli in Pembrokeshire, West Wales.
This burial chamber is neolithic (as
most burial chambers are) and was once very different. It
originally was built in a shallow pit and had two
additional sidestones on the west. One of these still
lies prostrate near the chamber. Four uprights formed the
facade, two on each side of the door chamber, but only
one survives intact. The gaps between the sidestones
would then probably have been filled with dry stone
walling and the whole chamber would have been covered
Arthur's Stone (Maen Ceti)
In Welsh this neolithic burial
chamber is known as Maen Ceti, and one of the seven
wonders of ancient Britain was the raising of the stone
of Maen Ceti. In fact it became so famous that an
invading Breton army detoured by a hundred miles simply
to pay hommage to this megalith.
The stone of Maen Ceti was in fact
never raised. The builders of this tomb actually dug
under the rock (a huge glacial eratic) and propped it up
as they went. There are two chambers to the tomb and a
burial cairn exists not more the 100 metres away.
Black grove hill in English - this
is one of a very few burial chambers which survives in
its original state. This 5000 year old construction was
built around an earlier henge monument. The chamber is
still covered by its cloaking mound of earth and the dry
stone walling still exists (it has been repaired to some
Inside the chamber there is a single
standing stone which does not (and never did) support the
ceiling slab of stone. The standing stone is cylindrical
and its purpose is unknown. Some of the earliest spiral
designs ever were found on a slab of stone within this
There are two entrances to the
chamber and visitors may enter and look around the
monument. It is well worth the visit (which involves a
pleasent half mile walk from the nearest road).
This Iron Age hill fort is
especially interesting because, following archeological
excavations on the site, several of the round houses have
been reconstructed on their original settings.
Castell Henllys is a typical hill
fort, built in the 1st millenium BC and used well into
the Roman period. It is an inland hill fort close to the
river Gwaun, fortified around the north facing lee slope
and sporting an impressive gate way earthwork which was
originally at least partly built of stone. Part of the
wooden pallisade has also been reconstructed and many
other archeological findings can be viewed by visitors.
An Iron Age farm and herb garden
complete the experience and guides at the site will
happily explain all matters of Celtic life.
Additional activities for children
make this a site to be experienced by the non-virtual traveller.
Hay on Wye
Near the famous
"bookshop" town of Hay on Wye, this impressive
cromlech is situated in quiet woodland. The entrance
tunnel to the main burial chamber can be clearly seen and
the chamber itself is in a good state of repair (albeit
without its covering earth mound).
The Paleolithic (old stone age)
remains of a man (once thought to be a woman) were
discovered buried in red clay in this cave. These remains
date back some 25,000 years and are some of the first
evidence of settlement in Wales.
At this time Paviland cave would
have looked very different, being much further from the
sea then it now is. Indeed, at this time the whole of
Great Britain was joined to Continental Europe, the sea
levels being considerably lower at the time