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The 1997 Season

Four areas were investigated in 1997. As in previous seasons, the earliest human activity on the site was represented by a small number of flints of either Mesolithic or Neolithic date, and several sherds of handmade pottery. A large number of shallow features were found to the south of the early medieval ditch on the north of the enclosure. These resembled in character those features of late Neolithic / Early Bronze Age date found on the site in previous years.

The excavation of Building 1, originally a long-house measuring 6m wide by about 11.2m in length, was completed (Trench 'H'). Areas of raised natural within the house were thought to represent the positions of low benching for sleeping and sitting on, arranged along the walls around three sides of a central hearth. The hearth had a carefully laid rectangular setting of kerb stones, and had been relined with clay on several occasions. Post holes for supports within the structure were found. Broad radiocarbon dates for the building (AD 780-980) were refined by archaeomagnetic dating of the hearth by The Clark Laboratory. This established that the hearth was probably last used between about AD 890-970. A curvilinear gully associated with stake holes and fired daub lay stratigraphically beneath Building 1, and formed a continuation of a gully found in 1995. It was thought to form part of a small round house with a diameter of about 5m, and a radiocarbon age was obtained from the gully fill of cal AD 680-885 (Beta-113392, 1250 +/- 40 BP). The western end of the large sunken floored hall or barn (Building 2) immediately to the east was represented by a short section of stone rubble set within a shallow foundation trench. Radiocarbon dates of the deposits within the building had already established that it was broadly contemporary with Building 1 ( c.AD 855-1000). The rectangular building was 8m wide by 12m long; a paved and metalled surface originally connected the two structures. A post hole thought to form part of an aisled timber hall beneath Building 2 gave a radiocarbon date of cal AD 620-800 (Beta-113402, 1340 +/- 60 BP).

A narrow trench ('N') across the double ditch revealed originally as a magnetometer anomaly in 1995 (at the eastern side of the enclosure), uncovered evidence for what we thought may have been a small bank with stone-revetted inner face; two narrow linear features were thought to be palisade slots within the enclosure ditch which defined the settlement boundary (one providing a radiocarbon date of cal AD 645-800 (Beta-113403, 1320 +/- 50 BP). This feature had partially subsided into the upper fill of an earlier ditch whose lower fill provided a radiocarbon date of cal AD 555-665 (Beta-113383, 1450 +/- 40 BP), and consequently had survived later disturbance.

A third area at the south-west corner of the enclosure (Trench 'O') was examined in order to establish a context for a cluster of ploughsoil finds discoverd in 1996. A 'dark earth' midden sequence was found to have built up against the limestone scarp to a depth of 0.8m, and it contained large quantities of animal bone and a range of artefacts. These included socketed iron tools for leatherwork, clenched nails and copper alloy mounts and bucket bindings. A southern section of enclosure ditch was located, and its fill contained a seventh-century copper alloy bird-headed brooch.

The interpretation of the 1997 season (as published)

"The 1997 excavation has pushed back the date of the enclosed settlement to the sixth century, possibly earlier, with internal ditches and timber structures - i.e. to the time of king Cadfan (Catamanus Rex, king of Gwynedd, commemorated on an inscribed stone from Llangadwaladr, who died 625). It appears to have been operating continuously until the late tenth or early eleventh century (the times of Hywel Dda, who died in 950, and Gruffudd ap Cynan, who died 1137), and to have been at its peak in the tenth century, when there is evidence for the harvesting of crops, the keeping of livestock, the presence of artisans and craftsmen, and contact with 'Scandinavian' merchants. The 7th-century bird-headed brooch is paralleled by Saxon brooches from Yorkshire (Sewerby, and Uncleby), and reminds us of contact at this time between Anglesey and Northumbria: the overkingship of Northumbrian king Edwin of the Westerners, recorded in the Tribal Hidage, and Bede's record of Edwin's supremacy over the Britons, particularly Anglesey and Man. Cadwallon was responsible for the death of Edwin in 633, who by later tradition had been fostered by Cadwallon's father Cadfan. In 634 Cadwallon killed Osric, became ruler of Deira (around York) and controlled Northumbria for a year.

What is fascinating is that the Viking Age settlement lies on a much earlier native site with enclosure ditch, bank, timber buildings and metal-working hearths, showing a conformity to the pre-existing settlement pattern. Of particular significance is the discovery of a pre-Viking Age wattle and daub round-house associated with a timber hall - reminiscent of the enclosure at Pant-y-saer just to the north of the site, with its complex sequence of huts and occupation. It also recalls the famous description by Gerald of Wales, writing in the late twelfth century, of the Welsh building 'dwellings of woven rods sufficient for a year's occupation, assembled with a minimum of labour and a modicum of expense'. The excavations at Llanbedrgoch have established that in the seventh and eighth century, wattle round-houses and substantial halls built principally of wood may have co-existed."

Dr Mark Redknap

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