FoNMAG visit the excavation in our President Professor Ray Howell’s garden.
Professor Ray Howell and his son Dr David Howell provided FoNMAG with a unique opportunity to visit the excavation which has taken place in our President's “garden.” The archaeological excavations in Llanfihangel Tor y Mynydd commenced in summer 2013 when they became aware of another structure on the site and were looking at that, when they became aware of other walls further up the hillside. These protruding stones can be seen today covered in lichen. When they started, they thought they were excavating a relatively small building, maybe a couple of meters in either direction and perhaps no more important than a storage building for animals. Instead they unearthed a massive 16m long structure, complete with a bread oven, multiple well preserved flag stone floor surfaces, mysterious window glass and a liberal spread of pottery.
We met Professor Ray Howell and his son Dr David Howell outside his traditional long house which he had bought many years ago and had enjoyed renovating. The house stands on a hillside and from this vantage point Ray placed the land in context. It was close to the boundary of the parish of Llanfihangel Tor y Mynydd and in the distance Ray pointed out an iron-age hill fort on the other side of the valley. As we walked to the excavation we passed a green lane which was a parish road which ran through the property and we saw yet another which led to a farm. There was evidence of 7 dwellings on the property and together with the lanes this suggested a more intense land use and larger population.
On reaching the excavation one was immediately struck by the main living area - kitchen which had a bread oven in the corner. To the left were two smaller rooms that would probably have served as sleeping areas. There was no evidence of a staircase beside the fireplace as was often the case and most probably there might have been a loft served by a ladder. Behind the fireplace was a small room, which like the main dwelling room was paved with flagstones. This room might have served as a store room or dairy. The main dwelling room now appears to have a cross passage but Ray and David feel this is a later insertion and that the main doorway was in fact further to the right. Beyond the dwelling they unearthed a passage way with a steep retaining wall in which they found half a mill stone the other half being found in the main dwelling area.
There were three further structures to the left which although attached to each other did not seem to be entered from the main dwelling. At first they were thought to be pig sties, but plaster on the wall indicates this was not the case. The third structure has a floor level considerably lower than the other internal floor structures.
Dating the jigsaw of structures has proved interesting. Coins, clay pipes and pottery suggest it was in use in the 17th Century until the late 18th century when something cataclysmic seems to have occurred and there is evidence of burning. However, the discovery of a ceramic suggests the date reaches back to the late 16th century.
Following this interesting visit which took place in the dry after a wet miserable day, we went back to the Star Inn in the next parish of Llansoy for drinks and a meal. It was fitting way to end the visit in the company of our hosts to whom we owe our thanks.
Photos provided by Phil Cox and Richard Frame