Editorial. Iron Age Settlement in Wales

Ken Murphy

Dyfed Archaeological Trust, Shire Hall, Camarthen Street, Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire. SA19 6AF. Email:

Cite this as: Murphy. K. 2018 Editorial. Iron Age Settlement in Wales, Internet Archaeology 48.

Volumes of collected papers often have a long gestation; those presented here have had a particularly extended and at times painful pregnancy before emerging blinking into the full glare of public scrutiny. It is worthwhile recalling the events that have resulted in this issue. In 2004, the four Welsh archaeological trusts began an assessment of the Iron Age hillforts, promontory forts and defended enclosures and enclosed farmsteads (given the convenient project tag 'Defended Enclosures') of the Principality, grant-aided by Cadw, as part of a continuing programme of threat-related assessments. Other themes investigated have included prehistoric funerary and ritual sites, Roman military sites, holy wells and early medieval ecclesiastical sites. The overall aim of the programme has been to enhance the four regional Historic Environment Records and recommend to Cadw those sites identified as worthy of statutory protection as Scheduled Monuments. A common methodology was agreed for the Defended Enclosures project, which involved visiting all non-scheduled sites recorded on the Historic Environment Record (where possible) and a selection of scheduled sites. Following completion of the assessment in 2008, it was considered that the accumulated information was of sufficient importance to warrant further analysis, synthesis and publication. Thus Cadw provided grant-aid to the four Welsh archaeological trusts to produce synthetic text and illustrations.

From the outset it was decided that something more than just four regional accounts, corresponding to the four Welsh archaeological trust regions, would be required in order to attract a wide audience. Therefore, Ken Murphy reviewed the evidence for south-west Wales and compared and contrasted it with that from other regions along the Atlantic seaboard; Bill Britnell and Bob Silvester's assessment of sites on the Welsh side of the Marches was expanded to include a host of important sites across the border in England; George Smith included the important hut groups of north Wales as well as hillforts in his article; and Edith Evans in her contribution examined the defended enclosures of south-east Wales in the Roman period. In addition, Matt Ritchie, formerly of Cadw, was tasked with putting the hillforts and defended enclosures of Wales in a wider context, and Astrid Caseldine, then of the University of Lampeter (now the University of Wales Trinity St David) described the environmental background to the Iron Age and provided an account of agriculture in the period. Kate Roberts of Cadw provided detailed comments which the authors incorporated into their final drafts. Contributions from other specialists had been promised, but due to a series of circumstances the project fell into abeyance and it was not until 2012 that Ken Murphy took up the reins again. Promised contributions were quickly produced: Toby Driver's article analysed the architecture and function of Welsh hillforts, drawing on research completed for his recently completed doctorate; current research and themes in the Iron Age was the topic of Harold Mytum's contribution; and Graeme Guilbert cast his critical eye over past excavations and surveys of hillforts.

Originally it was planned to present the contributions as a printed volume in a style and format that would be attractive to the curious lay reader as well as the specialist. However, even with a subvention, the cover price of the volume would have deterred all but the most interested of reader, and thus Internet Archaeology was explored as a publication vehicle, as it offered both open access and an attractive style. A proposal was put to Internet Archaeology in September 2014 and was accepted later in that year.

Results from recent excavations, surveys and other research is constantly put in the public domain and thus contributions such as the ones presented here, which largely summarise current knowledge, are constantly being overtaken by events. This issue is very much highlighted in some of the articles where there has been over a decade between contributors producing their first draft text and the final version being presented to the archaeological public. Where possible authors have made revisions to their text to take account of significant new evidence, but this has not always been possible. To give just a few examples of significant and relevant recent developments: in 2017 the Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland came on-line (see below); in 2013 Harold Mytum published the first volume of 26 years of excavation at Castell Henllys hillfort in Pembrokeshire; Billy O'Brien and James O'Driscoll presented the results of their extensive research on Irish hillforts in 2017; and even as this editorial is being written, part of the well-known Whitton Iron Age and Roman settlement in South Wales, investigated in the 1960s, is being re-excavated during road construction producing important new evidence.

The Atlas of Hillforts of Britain and Ireland. A collaborative project between Universities of Edinburgh, Oxford and University College Cork, Ireland and funded by AHRC
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The sharp-eyed reader will notice some minor differences in style in the contributions. The original plan was not to include references in the text but just to have a bibliography the end of each chapter; the first contributions were produced in this style. Later contributions contained references in the text more suited to articles presented in Internet Archaeology. Recasting of some of the first produced papers has resulted in an evening out of some of the differences, but they are not entirely consistent. It is hoped that the reader will not be too critical of these inconsistencies and will find the content enlightening, useful and enjoyable.

The general editing of this issue was greatly simplified by the excellent standard of all the contributions, and the main task has been to maintain momentum; this has not always be easy as all the contributors and others involved with the project have pressing, and perhaps more important, calls on their time. Individual acknowledgements are provided at the end of each article. Hubert Wilson of Dyfed Archaeological Trust produced the splendid illustrations in this issue, unless they are otherwise acknowledged. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales provided many of the aerial photographs which contribute greatly to the overall presentation. Further information on sites mentioned in the volume, and on other sites in Wales, can also be found in the four regional Historic Environment Records available on-line and in the National Monuments Record of Wales available for consultation via Coflein.


Britnell, W.J and Silvester, R.J. 2018 Hillforts and Defended Enclosures of the Welsh Borderland, Internet Archaeology 48.

Caseldine, A.E. 2018 Humans and Landscape, Internet Archaeology 48.

Driver, T. 2018 New Perspectives on the Architecture and Function of Welsh Hillforts and Defended Settlements, Internet Archaeology 48.

Evans. E.M. 2018 Romano-British Settlement in South-East Wales, Internet Archaeology 48.

Guilbert, G. 2018 Historical Excavation and Survey of Hillforts in Wales: Some critical issues, Internet Archaeology 48.

Murphy, K. 2018 The Atlantic Coast, Internet Archaeology 48.

Mytum, H. 2013 Monumentality in Late Prehistory: Building and Rebuilding Castell Henllys Hillfort, New York: Springer.

Mytum, H. 2018 The Iron Age Today, Internet Archaeology 48.

O'Brien, W. and O'Driscoll, J. 2017 Hillforts, Warfare and Society in Bronze Age Ireland, Oxford: Archaeopress Publishing Ltd.

Smith. G. 2018 Hillforts and Hut Groups of North-West Wales, Internet Archaeology 48.


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