At the 2017 Association AGM, Fiona Gale reported on recent finds during “controlled destruction” (erm, excavations) on and near the Clwydian Range, including something rather unique at Moel Arthur
PenycloddiauPenycloddiau is an iron age hillfort top the Clwydian Range. Excavation of a track through a rampart revealed a large yet part-collapsed dry stone wall some 3½ to 4 yards in width that would have circled the entire site to a length of some 1½ miles. The wall was constructed as a box rampart, one cube of stones at a time, and was therefore made in sections. Originally believed to be a palisade, the fact that the wall would have taken such a lengthy period to build indicates that it was perhaps unlikely to be for defensive purposes; if protective, those building it would easily have been over-run well before it was complete. As such, Fiona suggested that defence was only believed to be a tiny function of this massive hillfort.Indeed, Fiona speculated that the wall was important in bringing a whole Iron Age community together and a way of cementing the group. Given its size, there may have been up to 80 extended families living there. This was the total number the area could support, although they may not have all been there at the same time. Excavators found mortar atop the walls. Although the Romans brought in mortar, that at Penycloddiau was believed to pre-date this and, as such, is unique other than at a site in Gloucestershire.Moel ArthurA second excavation on the Clwydian Range at nearby Moel Arthur revealed a bronze age clay-lined trough with stones. It was believed that those living at Moel Arthur would have heated these stones by fire and placed then in water in the trough till the water boiled. This was likely for cooking (as was the case as late as the 18th century on the Hebrides) or it may have been used as a sauna. Carbon dating of the associated charcoal placed the trough as bronze age, before the hill fort itself, and Fiona believed that there may have been activity there as early as 5,000 BC. What had taken the imagination of the Welsh and international media, however, was the hand-held limestone tools they found. They
were each of a worked triangular shape, the top part of which appeared to be used to "peck" other stone.The National Museum of Wales and other learned institutions had not seen anything like this before. As such, the tools are believed to be unique.Moel y GaerDiscovered on this privately-owned hill fort. near Bodfari, a third excavation site on the Range, were stone spinning weights. Fiona suggested that this was evidence that the inhabitants keep sheep and, as such, here was both domestic activity and an embryonic rural economy.Excavators discovered a likely site for a house and within its garden a bone dated to c.350 BC. There were believed to be three phases of building at the site, indicated by three banks, in one of which was the remains of a drystone wall. Unlike at Penycloddiau, this site and its wall were much smaller in scale.Works at Moel y Gaer would, in Fiona’s view, have made something of an impression. As such, she again felt that the dwelling would have housed another community and the structure would have been more important psychologically than defensively.Other SitesThe classic motte and bailey castle called Tomen y Rhodwydd near Llandegla dates from c.1167 and therefore was Welsh-built. Till recently masked by trees and vegetation, the site was cleared and is now managed. There is also now permissive access from near the B5431.Archæologists have attempted to understand how the Leete Path at Loggerheads was built. Its purpose is known: the River Alyn disappears underground during the summer and the leete was designed to ensure that early industry in the area had a continuous supply of water. It was expected to be a box-section leete but is, in fact, U-shaped and, as such, carried less of a volume of water than previously thought.