Castell Henllys: A reconstructed Iron-Age hill fort in SW Wales.

 INTRODUCTION

This site covers the period  from around BC 400 to AD 100. Experts have undertaken extensive reconstruction and interpretation based on archaeology and other research. 


 Roundhouses at Castell Henllys

EARLY YEARS

The early founders were focused on constructing a defensive site on a prominent position which sent a subliminal message of power and substance.

Basic roundhouses were built and surrounded by a defensive palisade. The entrance comprised a double gateway with a heavy main gate  hung on two massive timbers. In those days there were hostile animals such as bears and wolves to contend with as well as potential people enemies.


 Entrance Gate

 


 Guide in period costume welcoming visitors to the chief's house.

LATER

After about 25-40 years from founding of the initial settlement the defences were strengthened by constructing earth banks and ditches to replace the palisade,

IRON ARRIVES

Iron objects began to proliferate from around 400 BC although bronze remained in use.Iron tools and weapons could be sharpened, repaired and recycled. It is possible that iron bars formed a type of currency.

No evidence of actual iron smelting has been found at Castell Henllys but iron was probably worked on the site as evidenced by finds of anvils, whetstones, a pipe used in bellows, a small iron knife, a sickle, hunting spear and iron brooches.


 Inside iron workers house/workshop

ROUNDHOUSES

The reconstructed roundhouses on site have been built on same positions of the originals and using the  same dimensions.

The archaeologists have discovered that:

  • Some houses were rebuilt several times on the same spot, probably at around 30 year intervals.
  • The doorways mostly faced south to maximise daylight and mitigate adverse weather.
  • A fire burned more or less continuously in a central pit. This provided warmth, heat and light.
  • Smoke filtered upwards and escaped through the closed thatched roof, This action killed bugs in the thatch and served to preserve meat hanging from the higher levels.

CONSTRUCTION MATERIALS

In the Iron-Age there were no long-distance supply chains with building materials sourced locally from the landscape.These included:

  • Oak for rafters and wall posts.
  • Hazel poles for for walls and roof.
  • Tarred hemp twine.
  • Hemp rope.
  • Reeds for roof thatch.
  • Straw for roof cap.
  • Daub: A mix of clay, animal dung, straw and hair for walls and floor.


 Tour guide in full flow inside the chief's house.


Video clip of tour guide demonstrating wool spinning in the Iron-Age.

ANIMALS

The peoples of the day farmed cattle, sheep and pigs. They also had horses although these were more akin to modern-day ponies. Like today, cats and dogs had been domesticated with the latter used for hunting, herding, protection and companionship whilst cats were used for rodent control.

Sheep of a type farmed in the Iron-Age. Animals illustrated are Soay sheep.
 

Pig which has been bred to replicate the type of animal available in the Iron-Age.

SUMMARY

Castell Henllys is an excellent learning and interpretation centre. Location is near Newport in SW Wales. There are close similarities with the Crannog Centre on Loch Tay in Scotland but, sadly, this recently burned down, an incident which highlights the risks is these wooden/inflammable buildings.

 

Former replica Iron-Age Crannog on Loch Tay, Scotland

 

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