Massive Prehistoric Fort Emerges From Welsh Woods

James Owen
for National Geographic News
November 21, 2008

Cloaked by time's leafy shroud, the prehistoric settlement of Gaer Fawr lies all but invisible beneath a forest in the lush Welsh countryside.

Commanded by warrior chiefs who loomed over the everyday lives of their people, the massive Iron Age fortress once dominated the landscape.

Now the 2,900-year-old structure lives again, thanks to a digital recreation following a painstaking survey by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales.

The Iron Age hill fort in central Wales was a major feat of civil engineering, researchers say.

"Because Gaer Fawr is densely wooded, it's been little understood in the past," said Royal Commission archaeologist Toby Driver.

"Our new survey has shown what a very impressive and advanced building it was.

"This was a very bold architectural statement by Iron Age people," he said.

Survey Says

The study involved thousands of measurements taken in 2007, which were used build a digital terrain model of the 21-acre (5.8-hectare) site.

Measurements were made manually using lasers beamed to handheld posts, each bearing a reflector, Driver said.

"The thought behind the survey was that if we could map the contours underneath the woods, we could then strip the trees off and then see what the fort looked like in the landscape," he added.

The results show the oval-shaped stronghold was defended by five tiers of stone-faced earthen ramparts, each measuring up to 26 feet (8 meters) in height.

Continued on Next Page >>


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