News Item 9th May 2008

Bronze Age farmstead found on Carningli


Through a freak combination of weather and vegetation cover, an ancient farmstead which is believed to date from the Bronze Age has been discovered on the southern slopes of Carningli. The discovery was made last week by local author Brian John during one of his frequent scrambles on the mountainside.

The focal point of the discovery (grid ref SN 063370) is a circular stone wall which was the base for a small roundhouse. Part of the wall survives, and although the rest is ruinous it can be deduced that the house had a diameter of about 4m and that it had a doorway facing south-east, down into the cwm of Cilgwyn. Probably it had a low domed roof rather than a conical thatched roof like the bigger roundhouses of Castell Henllys. Around the farmstead itself there are traces of other buildings, including a U-shaped shelter, a number of enclosures or paddocks, and two or three small shelters about the size of kennels or pig-sties. The terrain is very rocky, and those who built this farmstead had to make use of boulders and large stones where they lay; but nevertheless it is possible to pick out a "lane" running from the farmstead up towards the paddocks and small fields beneath the scree slopes of the mountain. There are also ruinous stone walls running downslope.

"This discovery is very exciting," says Brian. "I have walked within 20m of this site hundreds of times over the years, but I have never seen it before, probably because the bracken has been too high or because gorse or heather has hidden the stone walls. The OS map shows a "hut circle" more or less in this position, but because this term is used for ring cairns, circular embankments and so forth, I had assumed that the early surveyors had simply recorded the presence of a more or less circular small paddock. So I have never actually searched for a Bronze Age farmstead in this locality. Many archaeologists have mapped the features on the mountain, but as far as I am aware none of them have identified this site before. When Alastair Pearson and his colleagues from Portsmouth University mapped the Bronze Age and Iron Age features of Carningli recently, they mapped a group of four roundhouses on the north flank of the mountain, but identified nothing at all to the south. This is surprising, since they had aerial photos to help them."

Brian now feels that the prehistory of Carningli needs to be reassessed. He is convinced that the "Carningli South" farmstead dates from the Bronze Age, since it shares many characteristics with the other remains close to Cot Llwyd on the northern flank of the mountain. This means that on Carningli we not only have a magnificent and well-preserved Iron Age hillfort, but also extensive traces of Bronze Age settlement dating from around 2,000 BC. The density of these traces is greater than in any other part of Pembrokeshire, and Brian feels that Carningli has a far greater claim to be the county's "Centre of Bronze Age Culture" than the Carn Meini area at the eastern end of the Preseli uplands.

Ironically, Brian made the "roundhouse" discovery too late for it to be included in the small book called "Carningli -- Land and People" which was published just a fortnight ago and which deals with the prehistory of the mountain!