The work was based on case studies of three contrasting field systems and their landscape setting: Cwm Cilio, near Llanaelhaearn; Braich y Gornel, Cwm Ystradllyn, near Porthmadog; and Muriau Gwyddelod, near Harlech, Meirionnydd. All three are well-preserved and protected in whole or in part as Scheduled Ancient Monuments and consent for excavation was first obtained from Cadw.
The three case study areas selected were relatively discrete, continuous and well-preserved field systems that had obvious settlement associations and therefore good archaeological potential. The first, Cwm Cilio, lies in a small valley just below upland on the south side of the hills of Moel Bronmiod and Gyrn Ddu, Llanaelhaearn. The second, Braich y Gornel, lies in lower upland on the west side of the valley of Cwm Ystradllyn, north of Penmorfa, near Porthmadog. The third, Muriau Gwyddelod, lies on a low hillside east of Harlech, close to the coast of Cardigan Bay.
Background research was followed by geophysical survey, aerial photographic transcription, and ground survey to add detail to existing plans. One boundary was then excavated at each of the three case studies. This aimed to provide an understanding of the construction and function of each boundary, to retrieve dating evidence if possible, and to produce palaeoenvironmental and micromorphological evidence for earlier land use from the buried soils. Peat columns for pollen analysis were also taken from areas close to Cwm Cilio and Braich y Gornel. At Muriau Gwyddelod there had been previous pollen analysis close to the area, which provided sufficient environmental information (Chambers and Price 1988).
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