Ancient Sites in Gower

Gower History Timeline

The Gower Peninsula has been occupied since before the retreat of the last Ice Age (Devensian Glaciation), therefore the landscape is full of ancient sites and historical reminders.

The earliest physical evidence of Modern Man in Gower was discovered in 1823 in Paviland Cave. For this was the final resting place of Gower's very own Stone Age man. However, the excavated skeleton was notably misidentified at the time, as a Roman prostitute, by its founder Reverend William Buckley, steered by his religious beliefs. Named, and still known as 'The Red Lady of Paviland', the skeleton was eventually identified to be a man in his early twenties from 24,000 BC (Upper Paleolithic).

Twenty-two of Gower's numerous caves provided shelter for the mostly nomadic Paleolithic hunter-gatherers, following the retreat of the ice sheet. These 'bone caves' have proved a rich source of human and animal remains and artefacts. Cat Hole Cave, near Parkmill, was utilised as a shelter by Paleolithic travellers, Mesolithic and Neolithic settlers and Bronze Age communities.

Evidence of another early Mesolithic (7,000 BC) settlement in Gower was first identified on Burry Holmes in 1919, when typically small Mesolithic flint barbs (microliths) were found eroding out of the edge of the island.

Very close to the aforementioned Cat Hole Cave, Neolithic settlers constructed a large burial chamber here around 3,000 BC. Known as Giant's Grave or Parc le Breos Chamber, the cairn was the continued ritualistic burial place for over forty people spanning several hundred years.

Arthur's Stone

Numerous other Neolithic and Bronze Age cairns can be found scattered throughout Gower - especially on Cefn Bryn, accompanying the impressive Arthur's Stone. Its mighty twenty-five ton capstone was most likely a glacial erratic (a piece of rock/conglomerate carried by glacial ice some distance from the rock outcrop from which it came), which the Neolithic people dug beneath and supported with upright stones to create a burial chamber. The remains of Sweyne Howes on Rhossili Down, Penmaen Burrows Tomb (Pen-y-Crug) and Nicholaston Long Cairn are three other well-known Neolithic chambered tombs.

During the Bronze Age, people continued to use local caves as a source of shelter and for burying their dead. Bronze Age evidence, such as funeral urns, pottery and human remains have been found in Tooth Cave at Llethryd, Culver Hole (Llangennith) and Cat Hole Cave.

With the transition into the Iron Age, Gower settlements became much grander affairs with hill forts (timber fortifications on hill tops and coastal promontories) and earthworks. The largest example of this type of Iron Age settlement in Gower was Cilifor Top near Llanrhidian. Others include The Bulwark near Cheriton and Gower had finally entered the age of the castle, which would eventually lead to the establishment of churches and ultimately the development of Gower villages and the city of Swansea.

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