Friday, May 18, 2007

Three Promonotory Forts

Iron age forts are difficult to define, some are large, some small and temporary, but promontory forts are a particular feature of our coastline, in Wales and Cornwall they run into their hundreds. They point to the need for defense for the homestead, people needed to barricade themselves and their animals in from outside forces. The sites themselves could also be earlier bronze age settlements
St.David's Camp (or the Warrior's Camp)

on St.David's Head is such just one, hidden in a jumble of rocks, it has three banks, and even today there is evidence of small circular huts within its banks and ditches. Not too far away lies an earlier cromlech, and there is evidence of celtic fields in the surrounding area, which are difficult to see because of the growth of gorse and heather. The landscape seems bleak and hostile, thin soil on rocky ground it would have been a very different environment to what we live in today, a limited food resource might have been a probability.

Porth Y Gawr

The other promontory fort, Porth Y Gawr is similar, situated on a narrow promontory with steep banks to the path below, it was excavated a few years back and revealed a somewhat dense pattern of living between the 1st and 4th Century AD, 8 roundhouses were excavated, one having been rebuilt at least 4 times. Iron and glass beads were found on the site, and a small kiln.The following photo shows the small inlet at the foot of the fort,
here boats could have landed and fishing taken place. There is a small stream that runs down to this inlet which would have meant fresh water to hand as well, in the distance St.David's Head can be seen. The following photograph shows old field banks below,

and the steepness of the bank facing landside.

The next photos show two different type of forts, or more probably defended enclosures overlooking the harbour of Solva.

There is a great ridge that runs back from the sea inland, on one side is a drowned valley, on the other is the harbour with Solva river running into it. The above photo is The Gribin, and is the long narrow ridge that would have made defense easy in difficult times. The next photo shows what remains of the bank of the promontory fort that overlooks the sea,

again a narrow living platform for huts meant that this was a small defended enclosure.
Trevor Bloom mentions a wall going across the promontory;

The last photo shows a bank, possibly two, of a larger area at the far end of The Gribin, this could have been a temporary defensive enclosure, use
d only when times were difficult for the people living down in the valley of Solva.

Trevor Bloom in "A History of Solva" describes the iron age people living here in the typical "celtic" warrior fashion that is described by Caesar, maybe this is not so, the small defended promontory forts would not have housed many people, it could well have been a subsistence living for them and they were on the outer zone of the celtic world, though rich celtic Ireland may have been across the water, it would have been small raiding parties that were the great danger, roman coins have been found in the vicinity, but the Romans had a centre at Carmarthen.,Directions to Porth y Gwar; is approached along the path from Nine Wells, the path leads down to a small inlet, and taking the left coastal path you walk a few hundred yards until you see the banks of Porth Y Gwar, the small promontory juts out into the sea, and having no head for heights, did not venture on this narrow sea-girdled plateau, but apparently an archaeological excavation was undertaken during 1998;- ;