5. Conclusions

This article has offered an analysis of the data collected by the Welsh Roundhouse Project. Its aim has been to trace long-term trends in house construction and use, from the earliest structures in the third millennium BC to the disappearance of roundhouse architecture in the second half of the first millennium AD. The emphasis on recently excavated sites with good chronological control has enabled a more confident reconstruction of the history of roundhouse occupation in Wales. This has shown that while the architectural form has relatively early origins, it was a much more common feature of first millennium BC and early first millennium AD landscapes.

Of the small number of early buildings, principally those dating to the third and earlier second millennia BC, there was a recurring spatial relationship with circular burial/ceremonial monuments. This may be a product of a bias in excavation strategies but it may also indicate something of the origins of the roundhouse form in British prehistory, derived from or symbolically referencing contemporary monuments. Throughout the first millennium BC, timber and stone built settlements are relatively common, initially as enclosed sites, and later, by the Roman period, as both open and enclosed settlements. This is contrary to the situation in many other parts of Britain, where many more roundhouses and frequently field systems are dated to at least the mid second millennium BC onwards. Whatever its origins, the roundhouse remained a rare feature of the landscape until the first millennium BC. After this, timber- and stone-built settlements are common, initially as enclosed sites, and later, by the Roman period, as both open and enclosed settlements.

The long timescale adopted by the project makes the assessment of the Roman Iron Age material rather crude. Nonetheless, it appears that there is a degree of continuity in settlement patterns between the late first millennium BC and the early first millennium AD. There are strong differences between regions at this time, with for instance the predominance of stone- and clay-built sites in north-west Wales and the absence of Roman period roundhouses in the north-east. The dataset derived from the project will remain as an important resource with which to research these regional differences in greater detail and to examine the implications of new fieldwork discoveries. It will also serve as a counterpoint for future synthesis of later prehistoric and early historic settlement architecture within Britain.


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Last updated: Mon Nov 26 2007