A wealth of archaeological remains

The Carneddau range is an area of great archaeological interest. The area is alive with hut circles, cairns and remnants of ancient field systems. There are over 97 scheduled monuments and 4000 archaeological sites recorded within the Carneddau.
A Neolithic trade hub
On the coastal hills of the Carneddau lies an important Neolithic landscape, From 6,000 years ago, this tough volcanic rock was quarried to make stone axes that were traded across great distances.
Burial chambers and stone circles
Maen y Bardd is one example of many in the area – a small, yet iconic Neolithic burial chamber located on the slopes of Tal y Fan. Also known as Cwt-y-Bugail (shepherd's hut) or Cwt-y-filiast (greyhound's kennel).
Bronze Age sacred cairns
The Carneddau (cairns in Welsh) take their name from the ancient cairns located on its peaks and ridges. They are human-made heaps of stones, used as burial grounds or ceremonial locations. There are over 150 sites identified in the area.
Roman mountain pass
A Roman road runs thourgh the northern peaks of the Carneddau. Known as Bwlch-y-Ddeufaen, as two standing stones or monoliths are placed at either end of the road. The road connects the roman forts of Caernarfon and Caerhun.
Realm of the Tywysogion
The Carneddau was the landscape of the Tywysogion, the rulers of Gwynedd. There were llysoedd (royal courts) at Aber and Trefriw and Ffriddoedd, (royal pastures) at Abergwyngregyn in the Aber and Anafon valleys and at Capel Curig.
Complex sheep folds
Built in the 18th and 19th century, impressive, multicellular sheepfolds remain on the commons of the Carneddau. These were built alongside the introduction of sheep to the uplands of the Carneddau.
Deer with antlers
Human beginnings

Due to the migration of mammals such as reindeer and mammoth, people were using the lands of north Wales as early as the end of the last Ice Age. However, this was mainly in the summer months. This grew during the Mesolithic period (9600 – 4000 BC), where people were present year-round, although in small groups and very low numbers. Although ancient communities moved around over large areas, gathering plants and hunting and animals, they had a very limited impact on the landscape.

Lush green of the landscape
Neolithic impact

People’s impact on the landscape can start to be seen during the Neolithic period (about 6,000 to 4,000 years ago). Visible in our evidence as signs of declining woodland cover as people began to farm. Quarry stone above Penmaenmawr that was used for axe making and the Maen y Bardd burial tomb also date to this period, further highlighting the start of people shaping the Carneddau.

Read about our Neolithic Axe project
Prehistoric cairns between Carnedd Dafydd and Pen Yr Ole Wen - copyright John G Roberts
Symbolic importance

Roughly 150 Bronze Age cairns have been identified on the peaks and summits of the Carneddau (Welsh for cairns), dating back 4,000 years ago. Those discovered on the highest peaks are compared to ceremonial sites in places like Mongolia and Nepal. These cairns would have been symbolically important and have been known to have been decorated with colourful banners and animal bones to help mark their importance. Potentially visited to celebrate the spirits of ancestors, they were prominent places, with distant views and could often be visible from afar. Many people walk through the mountains, moving stones as they go to create shelters and new cairns, completely unaware of the significance of whats around them. Part of the project’s aim is to make people aware of this valuable archaeology and to help better protect these important discoveries.

Read about our cairns project
Distinctive Carneddau multicellular sheepfold, Gyrn - Carneddau
An evolving landscape

From around 2,500 years ago we start seeing evidence of settlements and field systems. There are medieval remains too and the story continues into the modern era with small-scale slate quarrying, complex sheep folds and even some Second World War anti-invasion defences. The Scheme is concentrating on the features where most work is needed or those under threat, like some of the medieval summer farming settlements that are being damaged by invasive gorse and bracken.

For these sites and the later evidence of settlements and field systems, the latest lidar technology will be vital, capturing detailed measurements from the air to make 3D images of what lies beneath the scrub allowing large scale mapping and analysis of how different features developed and their relationship to one another.

Read about our work to control encroaching vegetation
Aircraft used for Lidar imaging survey
Using modern technology

For these sites and the later evidence of settlements and field systems, the latest lidar technology will be vital. Lidar helps us capturing detailed measurements from the air to make 3D images of what lies beneath the scrub allowing large scale mapping and analysis of how different features developed and their relationship to one another.

Read about our lidar project