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Archaeologists unearth intriguing discovery at 12th century Abbey

20 Feb 2024 3 minute read
Excavations of the site at Strata Florida

Archaeologists have unearthed what could be a Celtic monastery at the site of a 12th century Cistercian abbey in Mid Wales.

Radiocarbon dating suggests that there may have been a pre-Cistercian monastery, possibly Celtic, on the site of Strata Florida before the abbey was established in the Cambrian Mountains near the village of Pontrhydfendigaid, between Devil’s Bridge and Tregaron.

Archaeological excavations on the site began in 2004 and will be continuing this summer at the Strata Florida Trust’s Archaeology Field School which runs from June 17 to July 14.

Farm buildings

Over the past five years, the archaeology field school’s excavations have focused on the courtyard of Mynachlog Fawr farm buildings which stand next door to the abbey and are being refurbished by the trust.

These excavations have revealed structures and features under the courtyard, including a major aqueduct and medieval buildings which once formed part of the abbey.

The remains of one stone building, however, appear to be earlier than the rest.

Radiocarbon dating

Following last year’s field school, three charcoal samples were collected from the medieval buildings and sent to specialists for radiocarbon dating.

The samples provided dates between 1166-1268 AD, 1028-1172 AD and, most intriguingly, 1017-1158 AD.

“The last two of these dates are from the earlier building and, given that the Cistercian abbey was not founded on this site until 1184, they seem to suggest that the building is pre-Cistercian in date,” said Carys Aldous-Hughes, trust director.

“One of the main focuses of the upcoming 2024 excavations will be the further examination of this building by attempting to find its original floors and any features associated with its earlier use and function. These will offer a glimpse into the history of this site before the Cistercians arrived.

“On the basis of certain aspects of its siting and related features, there has long been speculation that there was a pre-Cistercian, or Celtic monastery at Strata Florida on top of which the abbey was founded, perhaps even incorporating parts of the earlier buildings.

“Could these recent discoveries and this year’s work provide the evidence which will confirm this?”

Remains of the Abbey at Strata Florida. Photo by shirokazan is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Places are available for anyone wanting to take part in this summer’s excavations, and full details of how to take part are here…

Places are available for a choice of one to four week courses and digger day experiences.

Bursaries are also available, including a mental health and wellbeing bursary, to people living in Ceredigion. There is also a bursary for students.

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Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago

Has the Tory last 14 years been a repeat of the reformation…Henry VIII to Fat Shanks…

Gareth Westacott
Gareth Westacott
1 month ago

Why do they use the word ‘Celtic’. Why not ‘Welsh’ or ‘British’?

1 month ago

That’s a good question mate, I’m an archaeologist and have been for well over a decade, I don’t think we would call it celtic.
It’s probably the person who wrote the article

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Have you come across the layer where the 2 bob becomes 10 pence yet ? Somebody will one day….

Sean O'Cuill
Sean O'Cuill
1 month ago
Reply to  Tom

Could there be an Irish link?there had been raids into Wales by Irish adventurers(slavers)for centuries and it’s well documented that the Irish took the light(Christ,writin’ and education)back into dark age Britain.

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