Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire - Clwyd-Powys ...· CPAT Report No. 932 Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire

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  • CPAT Report No 932

    Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire



  • CPAT Report No 932

    Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire


    I Grant and N W Jones June 2008

    Report for Denbighshire County Council

    The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust 7a Church Street, Welshpool, Powys, SY21 7DL

    tel (01938) 553670, fax (01938) 552179 CPAT 2008

  • CPAT Report Record Report and status CPAT Report Title Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire: Archaeological Evaluation CPAT Project Name Penycloddiau Cairn CPAT Project No 1525 CPAT Report No 932 Confidential (yes/no) Yes draft/final Final Internal control

    Revisions no date made by checked by approved by Internal memo The Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust 7a Church Street Welshpool Powys SY21 7DL tel (01938) 553670, fax 552179 CPAT

  • CPAT Report No. 932 Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire Archaeological Evaluation




  • CPAT Report No. 932 Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire Archaeological Evaluation


    1.1 The Field Services Section of the Clwyd-Powys Archaeological Trust (CPAT) was invited by

    Denbighshire Countryside Service to undertake the archaeological evaluation of a small cairn within the scheduled area of Penycloddiau Hillfort.

    1.2 The cairn is presently being eroded by the Offas Dyke long distance footpath and the

    evaluation was proposed to determine the nature, condition and significance of the cairn to inform on future management proposals. Given the location of the cairn on the highest point of Penycloddiau it had previously been suggested that it may be a small Bronze Age burial monument.

    2 LOCATION, TOPOGRAPHY AND GEOLOGY 2.1 Penycloddiau lies on the central ridge, between the Wheeler Valley and the Vale of Clwyd,

    which at this point rises to an altitude of around 440m OD. The summit of the hill, at the northern end of the hillfort, is surmounted by the putative Bronze Age burial cairn (SJ 1271367886; Plate 1).


    Plate 1 View of the northern end of Penycloddiau, showing the Offas Dyke footpath and the cairn just

    inside the ramparts. Photo CPAT 06-c-357 2.2 The solid geology of the area consists of Silurian siltsones and mudstones (1994 British

    Geological Survey map), overlain by well-drained loams and thin peat (1983 Soil Survey of England and Wales map).


  • CPAT Report No. 932 Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire Archaeological Evaluation

    3 ARCHAEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND 3.1 Penycloddiau (PRN 102273; SAM Fl009) is one of the largest hillforts in Wales and is the

    largest of the six hillforts in the Clwydians, lying on the central ridge. The hillfort is multivallate, with a continuous inner rampart and discontinuous outer rampart, together with additional outer defences at the northern end.

    3.2 The northern end of the hillfort was subject to a total station survey by CPAT in 2000 in

    connection with erosion control works along the Offas Dyke footpath, which follows the ridge through the hillfort. Further detailed survey work was undertaken by CPAT in April 2004 over an area of around 7ha within the interior which was affected by a serious heather burn in April 2003 (Jones 2004a). Subsequent aerial reconnaissance by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (RCAHMW) helped to define the extent of the heather burning and also revealed the potential for newly revealed interior features. A final phase of survey was undertaken in 2006, covering those area of the hillfort which had not been surveyed previously (Jones 2006).




    Fig. 1 Digital terrain model of Penycloddiau showing the location of the cairn


  • CPAT Report No. 932 Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire Archaeological Evaluation

    3.3 A condition survey was also undertaken by CPAT in 2004 (Jones 2004b) covering the entire area of the hillfort. The survey noted significant active erosion of the potential burial cairn on the summit, which is crossed by the main footpath, and proposed a trial excavation to determine the condition and significance of the cairn.

    3.4 The interior of the hillfort occupies 19.8ha, while the circuit of the main rampart extends for

    1.93km. The hillfort occupies a prominent position crowning a large hilltop, the axis of which is north-west to south-east. Within the interior the topography is undulating, with a series of low ridges and hollows running roughly north-east to south-west, the ground falling by around 44m from the highest point inside the northern ramparts to the southern entrance.

    Hillfort entrances 3.5 Penycloddiau has two original entrances, and there are a number of more recent breaks in the

    defences. The southern entrance guards the approach from the col between Penycloddiau and Moel Arthur. The eastern entrance lies approximately midway along the eastern defences, c.500m from the southern entrance. This has inturned banks, together with an additional outer defence which flanks the southern side of the approach at the top of a steep-sided, dry valley.

    3.6 In general the ramparts are fairly well preserved and much of the circuit comprises a single,

    often very substantial rampart with an internal quarry ditch and an external ditch, sometimes with a counterscarp. The defences were augmented with additional banks and ditches in association with both entrances, as well as where the topography lessened the natural defences of the hilltop. This is particularly so at the northern end of the hillfort where the defences are more elaborate.

    Internal features and occupation 3.7 Within the hillfort interior the survey has identified 33 certain or potential round-hut platforms

    which have visible earthworks, most of them are terraced into the natural hill slope. In addition, a number of areas have been identified where it is considered likely that huts could have been located as a result of their sheltered position and the relatively level ground. A further 49 roughly circular hollows have been identified in the lee of the ramparts which could have contained huts, together with a number of less convincing hollows which may simply be quarry scoops for the construction of the rampart.

    3.8 Excluding those within the quarry ditch, the round-hut platforms form three main groups on the

    north-eastern side of the hillfort, each taking advantage of the local topography to exploit the most sheltered positions. In the north-east corner of the hillfort six potential platforms were identified occupying a natural hollow, while to the south-east a further seven were located close to two shallow, seasonal ponds and within an adjacent hollow to the east. A small artificial pond was also recorded within the latter group, possibly having been excavated as a well. A further group of eight platforms was identified close to the farm track, one on the north-west side and the rest to the south-east.

    3.9 In the centre of the hillfort two potential platforms were identified on the south and east sides of

    a low natural rise, with a further two possible sites located near the south-east corner. On the western side of the hillfort a single platform was recorded overlooking an area where the quarry ditch was thought to contain a number of potential hut sites.

    3.10 The majority of the hillfort interior has a thin peat covering which has presumably developed

    since the Iron Age and this, together with an element of hill wash, has in part masked some of the archaeological features within the area. Combined with the dense heather it is therefore not surprising that most of the features revealed by the survey had not been previously recognised.


  • CPAT Report No. 932 Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire Archaeological Evaluation

    Plate 2 The summit cairn before excavation showing footpath erosion

    Summit cairn 3.11 The highest point of Penycloddiau is occupied by a small cairn (PRN 102277) which is being

    actively eroded by the Offas Dyke footpath on the east side. It has been suggested that it may be a denuded Bronze Age burial cairn. Indeed, in the 19th-century account of the hillfort in Topographical Dictionary of Wales Samuel Lewis recorded that in the centre of the camp is a large tumulus. Ellis Davies (1949, 273), however, favoured an interpretation of the cairn as a boundary marker between the parishes of Ysceifiog and Llandyrnog. An inspection of the Ordnance Survey 1st edition 1:2,500 map published in 1874 (Fig. 2) clearly shows a triangulation station at this point, with the parish boundary running slightly to the east. The present trial excavation was designed to determine its likely date and function. The cairn is covered by the same scheduling designation as the hillfort.

    Fig. 2 Extract from Ordnance Survey 1st edition 25 map of 1874


  • CPAT Report No. 932 Penycloddiau Cairn, Flintshire Archaeological Evaluation

    4 EVALUATION 4.1 The evaluation was undertaken in early May 2008 and consisted of a single trench measuring

    approximately 6m by 1.5m, extending southwards from the centre of the mound (Figs 3-4). The modern walkers cairn on top of the mound was carefully removed prior to the commencement of the excavation. Numbers in brackets in the following text refer to individual contexts in the site archive