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Din Lligwy: A Connection with My Ancestors

I would challenge anyone to visit Din Lligwy and claim they are not at least "slightly impressed." Most visitors I suspect would tick  "highly impressed" !

The huge blocks of white limestone megaliths that make up this site are striking, even to the most casual visitor. The place has an atmosphere, a feeling of old and of a connection with the old people (yr Hen Bobl) and the old ways.

Celts in the Roman era: A not-too-grand country house

An artist's impression of life at the settlement; © Cadw, Welsh Government (Crown Copyright)There is no mistaking that this site, mainly dated to the 4th century AD, is well laid out - it is often officially described as an "Iron Age hut group." But archaeologist Frances Lynch has described it as a "not-too-grand country house."

It is in fact a Celtic or Native British version of a Roman Villa, a Celtic country house, probably owned by a local chieftain, a landowner-farmer, the Celtic version of today's "country gentleman" perhaps. He would have lived here and managed his estate on the surrounding farmland.

On visiting Din Lligwy it is quite easy to distinguish between the two round huts (where the people lived) and the rectangular buildings (where excavations have shown they would have worked iron or stored livestock). The grander of the two round huts is assumed to be the chieftain's house.

© Cadw, Welsh Government (Crown Copyright)An interesting feature of this site is that, despite clear Roman influences, it seems that the chief has in fact hung on to the Celtic tradition of living in a roundhouse. (The Romans preferred rectangles.) Perhaps my ancestors did not want to seem too Romanized after all!

It is always the question for me - what was the relationship between the Romans (invaders, tax collectors, administrators) and the Celts/British/ proto-Welsh (locals)? Were the occupants of Din Lligwy left to their own devices as long as they paid their taxes?

They certainly had wealth and status here. Imported (and then repaired) pottery was found here, so we know that the inhabitants, despite having the wealth to obtain imported pottery, didn't waste much. 

Excavations by Edward Neil Baynes in 1908 found evidence of occupation dating to the 4th century AD, but for me, Din Lligwy could well be more than a Roman-era-only site. I suspect there's even more here than meets the eye.

It feels older than we can prove -- a site sacred to the Druids?

Maybe it's the fact that we are on a slight elevation here, a limestone plateau, surrounded by trees - visiting as a child it felt almost as if we had entered one of the sacred groves of the Druids. But let's not start causing confusion here. We can never prove a Druidic connection; wherever they practised on Anglesey we will probably never know. It's not possible to excavate a grove of trees. There would be no indication of such a site and no structural remains. Besides the Druids would have been long gone by the 4th century.

A roundhouse at Din LligwyTo me this site feels far older than it is, perhaps because there is a Neolithic monument nearby (Lligwy Burial Chamber), and Din Lligwy's hilltop would have been an obvious site for the chamber builders to use.

In addition, Neolithic flints have been found at Din Lligwy, which likely indicate occupation or use of the site during the Neolithic. Indeed this is a very common feature of archaeological excavation on sites of any period: flint tools are quite often found "out of context" or underneath more recent occupation layers. Therefore the use of this site during the Neolithic Period cannot be ruled out.

Whether this site belongs to one historical era or more, it fascinates me. I so enjoy being here, sharing this site with others, and soaking up the atmosphere of Yr Hen Bobl.  


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