Y Pigwn - Roman Marching Camp & Prehistoric Stone Circles

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Y Pigwn - Roman Marching Camp & Prehistoric Stone Circles 

 
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Introduction - Y Pigwn

Y Pigwn is a significant example of a Roman marching camp. It is located 5.5 km west northwest of the village of Trecastle. It is situated on the summit of Mynydd Bach Trecastle at SN 828314. The camp is located at the end of this long range where it reaches its highest altitude. The summit offers commanding views of the wider locality.  

 

Historical background:
   
In 70 Julius Frontinus was city praetor in Rome. Four years later he succeeded Petillius Cerealis as governor of Britain. Julius Frontinus remained Roman Governor of Britain between AD74-78 when he was succeeded by Agricola. Soldier, Engineer and author of the De aquis urbis Romae ("Concerning the Waters of the City of Rome"), a history and description of the water supply of Rome. Frontinus is generally credited with planning the Roman roads of Wales. There are some fine remains of a Roman road running alongside Y Pigwn. 

The Romans, having established a legionary fortress at Caerleon (Isca Silurum), proceeded to subjugate the local people known as the Silures who occupied the mountainous areas of South Wales. The building of roads and forts such as Y Gaer outside Brecon were an essential part of this strategy.

Archaeologists have speculated that the features of this particular sides would indicate that it may have been constructed during the campaigns of Frontinus.  

Further Reading:

Brecknock: Hill forts and Roman Remains, the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historical Monuments in Wales, 1986, ISBN 0 11 300003 0 p. 150. 
Pigwn Roman Marching Camps & Prehistoric Stone Circle Complex

Construction:
 
Generally the large enclosures referred to as marching camps are considered to be overnight defences of the Roman army on summer campaign. At Y Pigwn there is evidence of two such camps, the second and smaller having been constructed on the site of the earlier one but at the slightly different alignment. Generally of the fortifications offered by such a camp with the constructed quickly at the end of a long march in a.  Typically the construction would include a rectangular shaped earth bank 3 to 4 m wide, nearly 1 m high in front of which would be shallow ditch possibly half meter deep. it is generally regarded that a marching camp cover in an area of 8 Hectares would accommodate one legion of men in which case Y Pigwn was large enough to have accommodated the equivalent of nearly two legions. It is likely that would have camped in leather tents for one or more nights before moving on. Given the fierce resistance of the Silures to the invading Roman Army these overnight defences would have been essential.  

 Prehistoric Stone Circles:

The Pigwn Stone Circles are located within a short walking distance from the marching camp eastern edge and immediately to the right (north) of the Roman road. The remaining stones are not very high and may be found close to the fence boundary of some adjacent fields at SN 834311.

Background:
  
Stone circles were constructed in the late Neolithic (by which time flint implements were ground and polished) and early Bronze Age characterized by the use of bronze or copper tools and weapons. During this period people were developing early agricultural techniques such as the domestication of animals, weaving, and pottery. It is believed that Stone Circles were ceremonial structures for religious worship. The positioning of stone circles may suggest that they were aligned according to the movement of the sun and stars it has been conjectured that this may have played some part in their ritual function.

Construction:

The stone circles near Y Pigwn may have contained as  many as 30 stones at onetime. The circle closest to the road has a diameter of 7.6 metres with five of the stones remaining. The second stone circle is larger (diameter 23 metres) and better preserved with 20 stones still standing and two outliers. Archaeologists consider that the central mound encompassed within the circle is probably natural.

Image produced from the Ordnance Survey Get-a-map service. Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey.

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