Books, Prehistory, Archaeologia Cambrensis 1909

Archaeologia Cambrensis 1909 is in Archaeologia Cambrensis.

Books, Prehistory, Archaeologia Cambrensis 1909 The Early Settlers of Monmouth

The clear traces of cromlechau," or dolmens, as they are often called by English and foreign archaeologists, in Monmouthshire are very few, but in the Arch. Camb. for 1846, p. 277, there is a reference to a cromlech at Gaer llwyd [Map] (or Gaer lwyd), Newchurch, near Caerwent [Map]. Of this it is there said "The upper or incumbent stone of this ancient relic is 12 ft. long, and, at a mean, 3½ ft. broad. The uprights or supports are from 4 ft. to 5 ft. high, and the whole seems to have been surrounded by a slight trench and bank." The cromlech in question was discovered some years ago by T. Wakeman, Esq., of Graig, Monmouthshire, who, seeing when at some distance off what he thought was a cottage, went to it, and was agreeably surprised on finding it different from what he expected. Since then the account he gave of it has caused it to be visited by several individuals and, when a new road was about to be made in the neighbourhood, he interested himself to preserve it from being broken for road materials, as a Maen Hir near Monmouth had shortly before been broken for the purpose." Last September, through the kindness of Mr. A. E. Bowen, of Castle Vale, Usk, the writer had an opportunity of visiting this undoubted cromlech in the company of Mrs. Bowen and Mr. A. J. Bowen. A photograph of the cromlech in question, kindly taken by Mr. A. J. Bowen, is appended.

In the Arch. Camb. for 1854, p. 14, there is an account of prehistoric remains in Monmouthshire, which takes the form of additions to Coxe's Historical Tour. The tumuli and earthworks which Mr. Wakeman here mentions were not necessarily of a sepulchral character. In fact, they would seem to be rather of the nature of military fortifications. In the absence of excavations, it will be difficult to assign to them their true character. It is significant, as Mr. Wakeman points out, that a very large portion of the district, including Trelleck and several of the adjoining parishes, down to a comparatively late period was a dense forest, chiefly oak, called the Forest or Chase of Wyeswood.

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Another trace of a cromlech appears to be left in a place-name-munely, of "Gwal y Viliast" in St. Mel- Ion's probably at one time a cromlech stood here. In the Arch. Camb. for 1872, p. 274, there is an account of interesting discoveries at the Doward Caves, near Monmouth. Though these caves are not in Mon- mouthshire, yet they belong to the same geographical zone, and are of interest as illustrating the nature of the life of early man in Monmouthshire itself. The expedition in question was made by the Cotswold Naturalists' Field Club. In this interesting account we are told that the caves in question are situated near the summit of the great Doward Hill, about four miles from Monmouth, and a mile and a half from the village at Whitchurch. The account is as follows "The first cave inspected was one which is the property of Mr. J. Murray Bannerman, Wyaston Leys, near Monmouth, and is situate about 200 yds. from a cave known as King Arthur's Cave. The explorers state that before the excavations were commenced this cave was so nearly closed up with refuse matter that had apparently been washed there that it was a difficult undertaking to obtain an entry. On removing the debris, a stalactitic Moor, about 0 ins. in thickness, was found, under which were discovered the bones of fowls, sheep, pigs, etc. About 5 ft. below this layer was discovered a large fore-arm bone of an elephant, embedded in clay and vegetable matter, but nothing is said as to the precise kind of elephant that was found. In this cave was also found the head of a Roman ox in contiguity with the remains of beavers, but no pebbles were found. In another cave, situate between this cave and King Arthur's, a Roman ox-jaw was brought to the surface, the teeth of which were in a very fine state of preser- vation."

The cave next described is that called King Arthur's Cave. This was said to consist of two caves or holes with a long passage. In one of the two caves, after excavating 22 ft. below the surface, there were found the bones of the beaver, badger, roedeer, wolf, and reindeer. Further inwards, by means of an excavation of about 10 ft., the Rev. Wm. Symonds had discovered a formation of river sand and pebbles, situated between two stalactitic floors. Resting upon the first floor or upper formation, mixed with earth, were found the bones of extinct animals. He says: I have been unable to discover whether the under formation has yet been opened." In this cave were found bones of the rhinoceros, mammoth, lion, Irish elk, bison, and some manufactured flint implements the latter dis- covery proving beyond a doubt that man must have existed at that time and must have entered the cave. This cave was said to present the only formation of its kind in England, where the bones of extinct animals are overlaid with river sand and pebbles.

In the second cave, which the party called "The Lion's Den," in addition to many bones already enumerated, there were found the bones of the cave-lion but very few traces of ice were discovered. The whole of the discoveries tended to prove that animals of a carnivorous character had existed in the cave, and had brought their prey there to be devoured, and had themselves hid them in their turn. Several specimens were ex- hibited, among which were the teeth and jaws of the rhinoceros and megaceros, or Irish elk, bison's teeth, the teeth of a horse, the teeth of a young mammoth, flints associated with the remains in the lion's den in King Arthur's Cave, broken pottery from superficial debris, teeth and bones from Mr. Bannerman's Cave, canine teeth of hyaena, teeth of the cave-lion bones, teeth, and flints from King Arthur's Cave, reindeer's teeth, etc." The objects found in this cave should be carefully compared by some competent palaeontologist with similar early remains found elsewhere in Britain and on the Continent, so as to fix as nearly as possible the precise Palaeolithic epoch which they represent.