Bronze Age

Big Welsh Walk – Gelligaer Common

As part of the Big Welsh Walk campaign, GGAT will be carrying out a circular walk around Pen Garnbugail on Gelligaer Common. Learn all the fantastic archaeology of this upland site as we visit Bronze Age cairns, a Roman road, an early Christian monument and medieval house sites.

Distance: 5km

Time: 2.5 hours


16 May 2015

2.00pm – 4.30pm

Start/Parking: Car parking area at SO 10506 03095, off the road between Fochriw and Bedlinog

Be sure that you have stout footwear and suitable clothing. Please follow the Countryside Code:

To book a place on the walk and for more information, contact Dr Edith Evans, or phone 01792 634227

Places are limited to 30 on this walk.

Gelligaer Rock Art Project blog now online

Following the exciting discovery last summer on Gelligaer Common of a piece of prehistoric art – a cup-marked stone, the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust and Groundwork Caerphilly decided that it would be a good idea if we looked to see if there are any more.
Archaeologists from the Trust along with help from local residents will carry out a survey on the Common, with the specific aim of looking for cup-marked stones.  GGAT are also trying to find out more about a cup-marked stone, called the Marrying Stone, found in 1935 in Bargoed.
Visit the blog at to find out all about this exciting project and the discoveries it makes.
Maen Cattwg cupmarked stone, Gelligaer Common. South Wales

Secrets of Swansea’s prehistoric past unearthed.

More secrets of Swansea’s prehistoric past have come to light on the foreshore at Oystermouth Bay. Archaeologists from the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust along with local volunteers taking part in the Arfordir Coastal project, have been carrying out emergency recording of the remains of wooden trackways exposed by the bays shifting sands.

 GGAT archaeologist Ellie Graham stated that these remains are possibly that of an early Bronze Age trackway, similar to that excavated by the Trust in March 2009, and may well be an additional stretch of it. Learn more about the previous excavation.

The trackway crossed a very different landscape from that which we see today, as the climate during the early Bronze Age was much drier and warmer and the sea level significantly lower. Pollen analysis from the previous excavation showed that the trackway was probably built through a wet, marshy environment.

The race to record as much as possible of the site before its destruction by tidal action continues until the 27th February when the project comes to an end.

Two groups of local Volunteers working on the sections of trackway discovered on the foreshoreA GGAT archaeologist cleans a section of exposed wooden trackway with a trowel

Ellie Graham, Arfordir Co-ordinator gently cleans a section of the exposed trackway

Exciting new Bronze Age discovery found on Gelligaer Common, South Wales

Gelligaer Common, on the border between Caerphilly and Merthyr Tydfil, has long been known for its Bronze Age burial cairns, and the remains of the medieval longhouses excavated by Lady (Aileen) Fox in the 1930s. Archaeologists have been studying it for so long that you would think that we have already discovered everything there, but you would be mistaken. At the begining of August archaeologists from the Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust led a guided walk for Groundwork Caerphilly to look at some of the sites on the common, and they walked between two of them, Janine Reed of Groundwork spotted a prehistoric cupmark on a slab of sandstone.

The group from GGAT and Groundwork Caerphilly discover the cupmarked stone (in forground)

Cupmarks are motifs typical of prehistoric rock art in Britain. Most British rock art originated in the Neolithic period, but it obviously still had a meaning in the Early Bronze Age, the date of the cairns on Gelligaer Common. The new find joins just three others known in Glamorgan – a cupmarked stone known as Maen Cattwg just outside Gelligaer village, another found in the Simondston Cairn excavated near Coity, Bridgend, by Sir Cyril Fox just before the Second World War, and one found a few years ago in a pile of boulders on Mynydd Marchywel north of Neath by GGAT Project Officer Jo Higgins. A fourth, in Bargoed, was described by Lady Fox in a letter written in 1949, but has now disappeared.

Janine was able to recognise the cupmark as she’d recently had Maen Cattwg pointed out to her. ´I was absolutely amazed and thought all my birthdays and Christmases had come at once!´ she said. ´I’m still astounded at our chance, but amazing discovery!´

Dr George Nash of the University of Bristol, a specialist on prehistoric rock art, comments:

´The cup is a fairly common motif used in a wider rock art tradition within Western Britain. Single cupmarks usually appear by themselves, (multiple cupmarks are rarish!). The stone on which it is gouged may be a fallen monolith – possibly a standing stone – again not uncommon within this part of the world (north-western Europe). It would be interesting to see if there are others nearby. I say this as I believe cupmarks and standing stones are very much part of a set of monuments associated with death, burial and other rituals. Both would have acted as markers within a landscape that had a spiritual meaning for the people who used it. I think that prehistoric communities would have processed through the landscape, walking from one monument to another on a carefully defined route and carrying out a set of carefully designed actions, probably at specific times of the day or points in the yearly cycle.´

He added that he could confirm that it is ancient from the way that it had weathered since it was made.

The cupmark with Janine's hand for scale

Planning & Archaeology in Wales

Hello! I’m Judith and work for a Welsh Archaeological Trust doing Archaeological Planning. It’s a bit of a varied job and basically we provide information to local authorities, developers, architects, agents, utilities, anything where archaeology is affected by planning.

This morning after all the usual emails, messages etc, I’ve dealt with a utilities query – asking for mitigation where there are Bronze Age cairns in the area and explaining what that means for a below ground development. The first planning application is for methane gas extraction in an area of historic mining – ancient to modern archaeology in seconds! More tea please!