Monday, August 13, 2012

Grrr. Penmaenmawr. Grr.

Welsh words are improbably long and look difficult to pronounce. Thankfully, they are easy to type.

Penmaenmawr is a little town in the parish of Dwygyfylchi, in Northern Wales. There are a whole bunch of prehistoric sites located in and around this small town of less than 4000 people. This is because the hills around the area provided an ample supply of rock for a prehistoric axe making factory to be built in Cwm Graiglwyd. (The Welsh word Cwm means valley or combe, which is a special valley that's enclosed on all sides but one). The stone axes produced in this cwm were some of the best in prehistoric Britain.  These axe heads, like the one pictured to the right were very similar to the axeheads created in the Langdale axe industry.

The Langdale Axe Industry sprang up around what is now Great Langdale, England. This industry was roughly contemporaneous with the axes being produced in Penmaenmawr. In another similarity between these two areas, both seemed to like to produce megalithic structures, especially passage graves. Some of the axes made in Great Langdale and in Penmaenmawr have been found as far south as Cornwall. While this is merely speculation it would make sense that since all three of these areas are on the Western coast of the United Kingdom, that the interchange between these neolithic stone craftsman would have occurred by boats that dotted up and down the coast to facilitate trade. As is the usual case with trade, ideas and culture travel right along with the goods being transported. This could explain the similar architectural fascinations by people so far apart.

The landscape near Penmaenmawr is dotted with megalithic structures. About a half mile south of the quarry the neolithic Welsh used to make their famous axes they built a Meini Hirion, also known as a Druid's Circle. Right next to this Meini Hirion runs a contemporary road from the area of Conwy to Bwlch-y-ddeufaen, roughly nine miles of track that is only passable by foot nowadays. Back then that would have been silly to say because that was the only way to get around, unless of course all these Stone Circles actually happen to be teleportation devices. This road was likely used to carry goods from one village to another and facilitate some type of communal worship at the various meini hirion structures that are all over Wales. While Penmaenmawr has been relegated to a tiny little town in modern times, it was important enough throughout the ancient world to warrant the construction of one of the largest Iron-Age Hill Forts of Europe. The quarries around Penmaenmawr would once again bring a bit of life back into the area in the 19th century but as the quarrying business declined, the population and significance of the town did as well. Of course, its historical significance can never be diminished and it is for this reason it has received an illustrious blog post by a well renowned historian... me.


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