Excavations at Penycloddiau Hillfort 2012

In 2012, the Liverpool Archaeology Field School (LAFS) took place this year at Penycloddiau Hillfort (Flintshire), which is the second largest hillfort in Wales.

The field school, which took place between 22nd July and 17th August 2012, is working in partnership with Cadw (the Welsh Assembly) and the HLF-funded Heather and Hillforts Project (Denbighshire County Council), aiming to understand more about the archaeology of the hillforts along the Clywdian Range.

In 2012, work by the Liverpool team commenced north of the eastern entrance to the hillfort on the inner rampart, where a presumed modern farm track had cut through both inner and outer earthworks. Our research aims this year were to:

  1. assess the survival of prehistoric remains;
  2. gain an understanding of inner rampart construction;
  3. provide dating evidence for the final phases of prehistoric abandonment.


Liverpool students began by working to document recent episodes of damage to the scheduled monument, including sheep scrape damage, the track through the rampart, and the impact of foot traffic along the rampart crest. Work in Area 2 revealed the remains of a destroyed stone superstructure along the rampart crest – 19th century ceramics documenting a rise in visitation of British monuments during this period.

Work in Area 1 revealed four separate phases of rampart collapse/decay, which were removed to reveal intact rampart deposits – an earth/turf and stone brash core, with external stone facing, and a series of late large-diameter timber features (to be investigated in 2013). Students also located the edge of the hillfort ditch, which may show characteristics of a terminal – a very interesting discovery and something that we look forward to investigating further in 2013.

In just 18 days, with mostly first-time excavators, we learnt a lot about the construction, decay/collapse and subsequent destruction of the inner rampart at Penycloddiau. Next season we plan to extend Area 1 across the inner ditch and outer rampart to phase stratigraphically all three earthworks, and to identify any surviving prehistoric remains/features suitable for sampling/dating.

More information on the wider Heather and Hillforts project can be obtained via the project's report.