The Tour of Wales



Gallery: Prehistory
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 below.
      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 with earth.

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.

Bryn Celli Ddu

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 extent).
      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 chamber.
      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).

Castell Henllys

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.

Castell Henllys Hill Fort

Arthurs Stone, 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).

Arthurs Stone Near Hay on Wye

Paviland Cave, Gower

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

Paviland Cave



  © Stephen Kingston