Aber Castle (Garth Celyn)

Aber Garth Celyn was the seat of the Princes of Wales since Aberffraw and Deganwy were destroyed sometime in the early middle ages.  With the fall of the Royal House of Wales and the subsequent conquering of Wales by Edward I, the location of Garth Celyn was lost to history.  It is only in the last 20 years that we have a better idea of where it might be. One possibility put forth by CADW, the Welsh Archaeological society, is at ‘y Myd’–a man-made mound to the west of the Aber River in North Wales.  “Excavations at Abergwyngregyn, near Bangor, unearthed the remains of a medieval hall dating back to the 14th century, the period when Llywelyn the Great and Llywelyn the Last were fighting for Welsh independence.” [a note from Sarah–that the archaeologist would say this is somewhat surprising since Read more…

Eryri (Snowdonia)

Eryri, Snowdonia in English, was the place in Gwynedd to which the Princes of Wales retreated, and their final stronghold when the English pressed on them from every side.  Mt. Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) has always been at its center, but it traditionally included the Carneddau range and essentially all the land west of the Conwy River. It is the land the Edward allowed Llywelyn ap Gruffydd to keep in the 1277 treaty.  Today, as a national park, it includes 838 square miles. From John T Koch, Celtic Culture: An Historical Encyclopedia: “The first literary mention of Eryri occurs in the 9th century Historia Brittonum, where an account is given of the downfall of the semi-legendary 5th century king Vortigern.  Pursued by his revolted Anglo-Saxon mercenaries and hated by his Brythonic countrymen, the king’s magi direct him to build a stronghold Read more…

Writing Historical Fiction

Back in high school, I remember overhearing two girls lamenting how awful their classes were and how they ‘hated’ history. Since I was hiding in a bathroom stall at the time, I didn’t give voice to my horror at their sentiment, but it has stuck with me in the thirty years since. How could they ‘hate’ history? Unfortunately, all too easily if by ‘history’ they meant the memorization of facts and dates that had little or no bearing on their lives. Why did they care what year the Civil War began? Or who was the tenth president of the United States? Or what happened in the fertile crescent of Mesopotamia (though knowing might clarify our wars in the Middle East today, but that’s a different topic). That’s not what history is about. History is about people. It’s the anthropology of Read more…

Working Archaeology in Wales

Archaeologists are always working on new projects in Wales.  A shortage of workers and funding inhibit the work, but the Dyfed Archaeological Trust conducted seven different digs, mostly using volunteer labor, in 2010.  A look at their page is a good review of what ‘real’ archaeology is like:  lots of digging, frustration, and grunt work, interspersed with occasional finds.  http://www.cambria.org.uk/  They worked on: Fan Barrow Excavation 2010 Capel y Groes 2010 Pantybutler Round Barrows 2010 Tir y Dail Castle, Ammanford Dig Diary July 2010 Upper Newton Roman Villa at Wolfscastle, Pembrokeshire – Dig Diary 2010 Wernfawr Dig Diary 2010 Nevern Castle Summer Excavation 2010 Nevern Castle Spring Excavation 2010 Each of these is a fascinating study in luck and circumstance (and hard work).  There are four archaeological trusts in Wales (Dyfed, Gwynedd, Glamorgan-Gwen, and Clwyd-Powys), found here:  http://www.archwilio.org.uk/ Gwynedd’s digs Read more…