Sticks, Stones and Dry Bones

The island’s strategic position in the Irish Sea and its fertile lowlands made it an attractive place for early settlers.

pant brooch Anglesey heritage

As a result, signs of human habitation dating as far back as 6,000 years can be found on Anglesey and it has one of the most impressive concentrations of prehistoric remains in the British Isles.
Mesolithic Age

The first evidence of human habitation on Anglesey dates back to the Mesolithic period, in about 7000 BC. Finds of small, chipped flints suggest the presence of nomadic hunters of the Middle Stone Age (Mesolithic period), c.6000 BC. These people lived in small family groups, gathering shellfish and hunting game in the forests of oak and hazel which cloaked the island.

Throughout the following millenia, the tribes which occupied the island erected numerous stone burial chambers (known in Welsh as ‘cromlechs’) , standing stones and hill forts, many of which have survived through the ages in good condition. Archaeologists have uncovered and excavated many sites, rich in artefacts such as pottery and stone tools, from the Mesolithic and Neolithic periods through to the Bronze and Iron Ages.
New Stone Age

By the New Stone Age (Neolithic period) tribes were settling in small farming communities around the coast and in river valleys, where the rich soil could be easily cultivated. The dense forests were cleared with stone axes to plant wheat and barley and to graze cattle, sheep and pigs which were brought in from Spain and Portugal.

By about 2000BC another tribe began crossing the shallow channel from France. They were taller with fair hair and grey eyes and became known as the Beaker Folk because of the bell-shaped incised pottery beakers found amongst their remains. When the owner died his beaker was filled with a herb flavoured alcoholic drink and buried with him to provide sustenance on his journey to the next life. Chiefs were buried with their tools and other artefacts such as daggers and beads of amber and jet.

The dead were buried in large megalithic stone tombs such as Barclodiad y Gawres on the west coast. The chambers were covered with huge capstones, sometimes circled by a ring of upright stones. Many of the stones were incised with spiral and zig-zag designs comparable to the ones seen in similar passage graves in Ireland and Brittany. One of the best preserved chamber tombs in Britain can be found at Bryn Celli Ddu in the south of the island, where fragments of wood and burnt remains of human bones have been found.
The Bronze Age

The Stone Age ended about 4,500 years ago when man discovered how to melt metal and was able to fashion metalwork from bronze, an alloy of copper and tin. Anglesey was fortunate in having a vast and easily mined deposit of copper on Parys Mountain, which undoubtedly attracted traders throughout Europe from this time onwards. The Bronze Age peoples seem to have adopted cremation as well as burial to dispose of many of their dead, through the graves at this time were individual and often contained pottery and metal artefacts intended to aid the deceased’s progress “to the other side”. Development of agriculture continued throughout the period, with fields being tilled as the forest was cut back.