A team of experts and volunteers recently came together through the Carneddau Landscape Partnership Scheme to reveal traces of Neolithic Axe work that were more extensive than previously thought in the hills above Llanfairfechan and Penmaenmawr.

The Landscape of Neolithic Axes project brought together more than 170 attendees over 16 days this Autumn. They included volunteers, members of the Young Archaeologist Club, and Ysgol Pant y Rhedyn pupils who helped excavate the upland area. We would like to thank the local farmer, Gareth Wyn Jones, for permission to work on his land. There were also two guided walks led by the archaeologists to discuss the findings at the end of the excavation period.

Around 5,500 years ago these hills in North Wales were of great importance. This was the second largest source of stone for axeheads in Britain. Axes from here were used across England and Wales, as far as East Anglia and Cornwall.

The axeheads made from this stone were not just critical tools for making clearings in the forest that covered the country but were also symbols of power and influence. The volunteers helped dig test-pits to sieve the soil for finds and their discoveries show that axe-working here was more extensive and varied than previously thought. All test pits found evidence of Neolithic stone workings in the form of flakes knapped off the stones during shaping the axe heads and discarded axes, known as roughouts. One roughout was of particular interest because instead of being a shape suitable for making an axehead, it was very narrow. It was probably intended to be a narrow pick or chisel.

The Carneddau Landscape Partnership is a five-year, £4 million scheme, backed by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, with over 20 partners involved. The Landscape of Neolithic Axes project is led by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust and Snowdonia National Park Authority in collaboration with Penmaenmawr Museum, with additional funding from Cadw. There will be further fieldwork and volunteer opportunities with the Landscape of Neolithic Axes project in late Summer/early Autumn, 2022.

Hannah Ibbotson, a volunteer on the project said:
‘I joined the project with no archaeological knowledge or background and by the end of the first day I was asking to stay longer to discover more Neolithic finds! Sitting where a Neolithic person sat to create an axe is a very moving experience that I’ll treasure forever (excuse the pun!). Everyone was so friendly and welcoming, I couldn’t wait to go back every day.’

Jane Kenney, Archaeologist from Gwynedd Archaeological Trust said:
‘Our discoveries so far have shown that axe-working was much more extensive than expected; not restricted to the stone sources but taking place across the landscape.’

John Roberts, Archaeologist for the Snowdonia National Park Authority said:
‘The Axes project is totally dependent on the brilliant volunteers who do the digging, recording and other aspects of the work. We’re very grateful to everyone who took part. It was a great team and a pleasure to meet and work with such an enthusiastic lot of people. There wouldn’t be a project without you!’