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East Fforest Fawr and Mynydd-y-Glôg
Historic Landscape

Historic Landscape Characterisation

East Fforest Fawr and Mynydd-y-Glôg


The historic landscape area includes quite a number of prehistoric burial and ritual monuments, most notably circular cairns and ring cairns, which are important indicators of early land use and settlement. Few sites have been excavated in modern times though by analogy with sites elsewhere both monument types are most likely to belong to the Early Bronze Age and Middle Bronze Age, the circular cairns representing burial monuments and the ring cairns having possibly been used for both ritual activity and burial. The only finds associated with the monuments is a sandstone disc found at a cairn in the col above Cwm Cadlan and fragments of Early Bronze Age pottery found during the excavation of the large cairn near Nant-maden farm in Cwm Cadlan. The monuments are generally between 6-20 metres across and up to about a metre in height, though the Nant-maden cairn is exceptionally up to 1.8 metres in height. In some instances there are possible traces of a circular kerb and indications of a central burial cist. Most of the sites appear to be generally well preserved although small intrusions have been dug into some monuments and others have been adapted to form sheep shelters.

These monument types are generally readily distinguished from clearance cairns because of their greater size, or because they occur singly rather than in cairnfields, or because they possess structural detail characteristic of early burial and ritual monuments. The association of some of the monuments in the Cwm Cadlan area with a much later, medieval battle, as suggested by the Breconshire historian Theophilus Jones on the basis of the placename Cadlan (‘battlefield, battle’), is now considered improbable. A suggested association of some ring-cairns in this area with goose rearing is also unlikely.

Few of the monuments appear to have any specific names of any great age, two exceptions being Carn Caniedydd (‘singer’s, song-writer’s cairn’) and Garn Wen (‘white cairn’) where the element appears to apply to prehistoric burial cairns. Caniedydd possibly refers to the whistling of the wind in this exposed location, or is derived from a personal name, or may have folkloric or legendary associations. The signficance of some of these monuments as landmarks within otherwise featureless moorland is emphasised by the frequency of the place-name element carn (plural carnau, ‘cairn, mound, rock, heap’) in the area, in such names as Mynydd y Garn, Cefn Esgair-carnau, though in some, and perhaps a majority of instances, the word appears to refer to naturally-occurring rock outcrops rather than artificial mounds.

Most of the known monuments lie within the present-day unenclosed upland areas (Mynydd y Garn, and Cefn Cadlan, Cefn Sychbant and Mynydd-y-glog historic landscape character areas). The presence of a number of monuments in enclosed landscapes, as for example in the case of the partially-excavated circular cairn near Nant-maden (Cwm Cadlan historic landscape character area), hints at the possibility that the visual, above-ground elements of other similar monuments on the lower-lying areas of Dyffryn Hepste and Cwm Cadlan were cleared away or obscured during the course of later clearance, enclosure and agriculture. The present-day distribution of these monument types is therefore likely to be skewed towards more marginal and less intensively farmed areas.

In both the Mynydd y Garn, and Cefn Cadlan, Cefn Sychbant and Mynydd-y-glog historic landscape character areas the monuments occur either singly or pairs or in larger clusters and generally appear to be deliberately sited on hill-slope or hill-crest location from which they would perhaps have been visible from contemporary settlements on lower ground. In the regional context there is a notable concentration of sites in the northern part of the historic landscape area, on the upland plateaux of Mynydd y Garn, Waun Tincer and Cefn Esgair-carnau. The cairns generally avoid the highest and most remote moorland areas above about 450 metres above sea level in the northern part of the historic landscape area, below Fan Fawr. It appears significant that the surviving distribution of these monument types tend to be on slightly higher ground and to complement rather than overlap the traces of early settlement and land use with which they are likely to be at least in part contemporary, suggesting a fairly rigorous functional segregation of the landscape in the earlier prehistoric period, with some areas set aside for settlement and more intensive land use and others for burial, ritual and more extensive land use.

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