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The 1994 Season

The initial exploratory fieldwork on the site at Llanbedrgoch was undertaken in 1994, in order to establish the context of some significant early medieval artefacts which had been brought to the Department of Archaeology & Numismatics for identification between 1989 and 1993. These finds included three lead weights of Viking type (one capped with a fine decorative copper alloy mount with L-fret recessed panels for enamel), a tenth-century Viking Age copper alloy ringed pin, a serpentine bead and a bronze pyramidal bell of tenth-century type.

We had no exact find-spots for this material, and so the first stage of the investigation was an examination of the site by geophysical surveying and trial excavation.

The solid geology of the area is limestone, with a surface cover of loam. Only approximate locations were known for any of the original finds, which came from four different fields over a distance of 400 m. As no obvious features were visible on the ground, geophysical surveys were commissioned of selected areas within four fields , using Geoscan RM4 and DL10 resistivity equipment and Fluxgate Gradiometer. Over eighty grid squares (each 20 x 20m) were completed by the magnetometer (which measures very small variations in the earth's magnetic field caused by buried features), and twenty grid squares by resistivity. In parallel with this, fieldwalking and surveying was followed by small-scale evaluation of survey anomalies.

Geophysical surveying and small-scale excavation of a symmetrical mound (measuring approximately 20m in diameter, and 3m in height) located several ditches to its south and what appeared to be a simple stone revetment around at least part of the mound base. A detailed contour survey of the mound was completed.

In another area the magnetometer survey indicated the presence of a D-shaped enclosure, with s0-called 'hot spots' of magnetic activity within the boundary ditch. Trial excavation established that this enclosure ditch was approximately 2m wide, and 1m deep. Its fill contained charcoal and the knob from a crucible of early medieval type, indicative of past metalworking activity in the area. The calibrated radiocarbon dates obtained from ditch fills were AD 450 to 770 (Beta -77210, 1430 +/- 80 BP) and cal AD 720 to 735 and cal AD 760 to 1035 (Beta-77212, 1120 +/- 80 BP). Trench 'E' inside the enclosure established the existence of a post-hole cut into bedrock within an area of general levelling. The bedrock and this feature were overlain by a black earth which contained abundant charcoal and animal bone. A calibrated radiocarbon date was obtained from charcoal sieved from this black earth of cal AD 635 to 1005 (Beta-77211, 1240 +/- 100 BP).

The few finds from the 1994 excavations were consistent with an early medieval date.

The interpretation of the 1994 season (as published)

It was suspected that the area of levelling associated with a post-hole in Trench 'E' might represent a house-platform within the enclosure, and the annual report stated: ''These preliminary results are significant in identifying what may prove to be the first firm evidence for settlement of early medieval date on Anglesey with signs of Viking Age activity. The coin range (late eighth to late ninth century), the radiocarbon dates (one early: fifth to eighth century; two later: eighth to early eleventh century) and the artefacts all indicate activity in the ninth and tenth centuries, if not earlier. This broadly corresponds with the date of the Hiberno-Norse silver arm-rings from Red Wharf Bay (probably deposited in the early tenth century) and the period of Viking settlement in the Wirral, though it is too early to say to what extent the site at Llanbedrgoch predates the traditional arrival of Ingimund in AD 902/3 and the holding of Osfeilion ('Maes Rhosmeilon': Brut y Tywysogyon, AD 903) near Llanfaes. The archaeological evidence for Viking presence in North Wales is sparse, and the identification and investigation of potential sites is essential if the nature of such contact is to be understood."

Dr Mark Redknap

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