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Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales

The 1996 Season

The main aim in 1996 was to investigate and attempt to understand further an area within the early medieval enclosure around Buildings 1 and 2. The largest trench measured approximately 60m x 30m; two extensions to the north-west and north provided cross-sections across the enclosure ditch.

As in 1995, the earliest human activity on the site was represented by flint scatters; those flints which have been examined appear to be of Mesolithic, Neolithic or Early Bronze Age date. A few shallow features contained coarse quartz-tempered pottery of Neolithic/Early Bronze Age character. A small trench was opened up to the south of the main area in order to re-examine a pit discovered during the 1995 excavation, which contained a fine 'whip-cord' decorated bowl of Peterborough type. One small feature recorded in 1995 has now provided a radiocarbon date of cal BC 3485-3465 and cal BC 3375-3090 (Beta-90547, 4560 +/-50 BP); a pit cut by the feature containing the Peterborough-type bowl was dated cal BC 3665-3620 and cal BC 3575-3535 (Beta-101536, 4830 +/- 60 BP).

A small number of potsherds from the main area of excavation and a fragment of bow brooch indicated limited Romano-British activity on the site. This was reflected in radiocarbon dates now obtained for several features. One pit has a date of cal AD 265-290 and cal AD 320-540 (Beta-90549, 1650 +/- 50 BP); a small gully has a date of cal BC 5- cal AD 645 (Beta-90544, 1720 +/- 150 BP).

The primary fill of the enclosure ditch produced radiocarbon dates of cal AD 650-865 (Beta-90548, 1300 +/- 50 BP) and cal AD 645 to 975 (Beta-90546, 1290 +/- 80 BP). A seventh- to ninth-century date was confirmed by a few artefacts from ditch fills. Small circular areas of reddened clay situated at regular intervals inside the enclosure ditch were thought to indicate the locations of industrial hearths during this phase, perhaps originally behind a bank created from ditch upcast. The fill of one bowl-shaped hearth produced a Northumbrian penny ('styca') from the first half of the ninth century. The northern side of the timber hall which underlay (and pre-dated) Building 2, was found to comprise large uprights paired with smaller posts to the north (aisle?).

The relationships between the stone-footed rectangular buildings which had been identified remained complex, but at this early stage of the excavation the main phasing was becoming apparent. Building 1(a) comprised a narrow rectangular 'long house' measuring at least 11.2m in length and 5.6m in width, with wall footings of carefully set unbonded limestone. A stone-lined and capped drain first recorded in 1995 was found to have a rock-cut bottom, whic lay in a straight line approximately north-south for a distance of about 7m, diagonally across the interior of the building. The drain appeared to have drained the semi-sunken hall floor, whose southern half consisted of either stone flagging or bare limestone. In the northern half of the structure lay a fine rectangular hearth neatly defined with kerb stones (1m x 1.6m), and which had at least three clay linings beneath its ashy fill It has provided a radiocarbon date of cal AD 780-980 (Beta-101535, 1170 +/- 40 BP).

The eastern end of Building 2 was located, indicating that it was at least 8.9m wide and 14m in length. Where preserved, the evidence for walls consisted of a continuous dry stone wall footing set within a shallow trench, and probably supported a timber superstructure. The post-hole excavated in 1994 was found to be located in the upper fill of a rock-cut bath-shaped sump or drain in the centre of the sunken floor of this building, and adjacent to a central setting of flagstones. Contexts associated with Building 2 produced tenth-century artefacts, including more iron knives (some with angle back), fragments of rotary quernstone, offcuts of antler and two largely complete red deer antler beams (with tines partially removed).

Metalworking waste recovered in 1996 included silver and bronze droplets, and one bronze casting sprue. One of several small ditches orientated north-south within the enclosure was dated to the tenth century (by a ringed pin within its fill), and suggested that the enclosure had been subdivided. A larger ditch, orientated approximately NNW-SSE, cut through the eastern end of Building 2, and its fill provided a radiocarbon date of cal AD 895-1265 (Beta-101526, 960 +/- 90 BP). This ditch was parallel one discovered in 1995, which produced a radiocarbon date of cal AD 880-1265 (Beta-90545, 980 +/- 100 BP). At one point the fill of new ditch contained a large deposit of molluscs, seemingly a dump.

The interpretation of the 1996 season (as published)

"The artefactual, numismatic and radiocarbon evidence from this multi-period site established the presence of an important native settlement from the time of Rhodri Mawr (and probably earlier). The finds recovered from within the enclosure suggest Hiberno-Norse trading activity associated with the site during the tenth century. The site appears to have operated during the tenth century as a farm, craft production centre and trading post all in one'. Though we had no evidencce for a boundary wall, the locations of the bowl hearths suggested that they lay behind a bank created from ditch upcast (since ploughed out)."

Dr Mark Redknap

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