New road revealed secrets of earliest Carmarthenshire inhabitants

18 June 2019
Excavations in advance of construction on the A477 revealed a ritual landscape with cremation burials dating to over 3,500 years ago according to findings now published.
Decorated Bronze Age urns and small accessory vessel from excavation of A477 site. Photo: Cotswold Archaeology

Decorated Bronze Age urns and small accessory vessel from excavation of A477 site. Photo: Cotswold Archaeology

Contact

Roy Emberton. Ramboll. Image: Paulina Sobczak Photography

Roy Emberton

Technical Director, Envorinment & Health
T: +44 7921 106 676

An assessment of archaeological risk was essential before The Welsh Assembly Government's (Welsh Assembly) proposed road improvements could commence on the section of the A477 between St Clears and Red Roses in Carmarthenshire. Local people have welcomed the improved section of the A477, which now provides faster, safer road connections and safe-guards important heritage assets along the way.

Ramboll, the lead contractor, appointed AB Heritage to assess the potential for archaeology and prepare the detailed scheme to manage the archaeology requirements. An archaeological field-team from Cotswold Archaeology undertook the major site works and post excavation.

Details of the exciting findings, and other notable evidence of ancient and more recent activity, have now been published on behalf of the scheme partners by Cotswold Archaeology.

The findings include a very rare Bronze Age cremation and funerary site to the west of Llanddowror, which is one of the best-preserved and most extensive to have been discovered. Many of the cremation burials were placed in, or with, beautiful pots, and the human bone deposits and the evidence for funerary rites that accompanied them cast a light on the varied and unusual burial practices of the time.

Other discoveries made along the 27km stretch of road construction and reported in the book include evidence for hunter gatherers from the Mesolithic era (before 4000 BC), as well as traces of land clearance and settlement left by early Neolithic farmers (4000-2400 BC), along with the site of a possible Bronze Age 'sauna' (referred to as a 'burnt mound'): a flattened mound of charcoal and burnt stone, thought to be the evidence for heating stones to high temperatures to boil water for cooking or to create steam for a kind of sauna.

Roy Emberton, project environment lead at Ramboll, said “This work, funded by the Welsh Government as part of the delivery of the A477 St Clears to Red Roses Improvement, has shed significant light on the extensive history of occupation and land use in the area. The data and finds gathered have great historic importance and provide cultural resonance to local communities. The work undertaken substantially extends the level of knowledge available for the area and Ramboll is proud to have played a part in the identification, recording and recovery of such extensive heritage assets and information.”

Andy Buckley, managing director of AB Heritage explained “Our team was delighted to be appointed as Project Archaeologist for the strategically important road works. The challenge was how to manage the significance of the archaeology and its importance to the local community, with the efficient progress of much needed road improvements. Working closely with the team at Ramboll, AB Heritage designed investigation works and led a phased programme on site to ensure the project stayed on course. Over approximately 30 hectares of land was surveyed as part of the site investigations, with evaluation trenching, and further archaeological works undertaken by Cotswold Archaeology. As a result of close working with the environmental and wider team, important historic assets have been protected for the community.”

Neil Holbrook, chief executive of Cotswold Archaeology, said "We are delighted that the opportunity for archaeological investigations afforded by the construction of the new road has produced such interesting results. We have uncovered precious evidence for the beliefs of some of the earliest inhabitants of Carmarthenshire, and the success of our work would not have been possible without the interest and collaboration of the Welsh Government and their agents, Ramboll".

Book details:

  • Title: The Prehistoric Archaeology of the A477 St Clears to Red Roses Road Improvement Scheme 2012
  • Written by Alistair Barber, Alan Hardy and Andrew Mudd
  • Edited by Mary Alexander
  • Made possible through funding from Welsh Government in collaboration with Principal contractor: SRB Civil Engineering UK Ltd (Sisk and Roadbridge Joint venture).
  • Expert archaeological services provided by AB Heritage Limited with Cotswold Archaeology
  • Scheme design and engineering input from Arcadis and Ramboll
  • Price £19.95 | ISBN: 9780993454554 | Series: Cotswold Archaeology Monograph | Volume: 12 | Year of Publication: 2019 | Language: English 180pp

Further information

A477 St Clears to Red Roses road improvement scheme. Ramboll

A477 St Clears to Red Roses road improvement scheme

The A477 road forms part of the Trans European Road Network (TERN), a strategic route linking mainland Europe with West Wales and Ireland. Ramboll was appointed transport and environmental consultant in an Early Contractor Involvement (ECI) form of contract to design and deliver a £47m improvement scheme.

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