From Hunter-Gatherers to Early Christians: The archaeology of ancient societies in the Llŷn peninsula


This very readable book discusses the archaeology from a beautiful stretch of coastal north-west Wales: the Llŷn peninsula. As this volume demonstrates, it has produced a diverse range of well-preserved monuments that are of national importance. Despite the potential of this archaeological resource, the archaeology is not well-understood. There has been an attempt in recent years to address this problem through excavations at a handful of sites (for instance, Mynydd Rhiw axe-factory, Mellteyrn Uchaf enclosed settlement, and Dinas Dinlle and Meillionydd hillforts), but this fieldwork is only just beginning to scrape the surface, and the area remains largely neglected when compared to nearby Anglesey.

This book begins with a detailed characterisation of the landscapes and historical development of the Llŷn. A thorough survey of all the published and unpublished literature relating to known archaeological sites on the peninsula, dating from the Mesolithic to the end of the early medieval period, forms the basis for analysis in the remaining nine chapters. The analysis of each site or find location is detailed and engaging, and each chapter is well-illustrated with photographs, plans, and black-and-white line illustrations of artefacts. Discussions include a submerged Mesolithic forest (for example, Abersoch beach – Chapter 2); several Neolithic tombs, some located adjacent to natural outcrops with cup-mark decoration (such as at Cist Cerrig and Mynydd Cefn Amwlch – Chapter 3); a number of large early Bronze Age funerary cairns and standing stones (Chapter 5); and a range of later prehistoric and Romano-British hillforts and roundhouse settlements (Chapters 7-9). The book ends with an engaging exploration of the evidence for early medieval communities (Chapter 10), but I felt that an opportunity was missed to bring the analysis together in a final conclusion chapter, which would have enabled the nature of the different societies occupying the Llŷn throughout this period to be characterised and compared better.

Overall, Heath’s meticulous research and attention to detail has brought the rich and varied nature of the archaeology on the Llŷn peninsula to light and it represents an important contribution to Welsh archaeology.

Julian Maxwell Heath
Windgather Press, £39.95
ISBN 978-1914427220