Nid oes gennych resi chwilio datblygedig. Ychwanegwch un trwy glicio ar y botwm '+ Ychwanegu Rhes'

Castell Nadolig Hillfort, Findspot of The Late Iron Age Penbryn Spoons

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Castell Nadolig hillfort encloses 3.99 hectares externally (3.45 ha internally) and is the second largest hillfort in the county of Ceredigion (Pen Dinas, Aberystwyth at 5.13 ha is the largest; Figures 1, 2 & 3). Its nearest neighbour Gaer Pwntan (2.28ha), has largely been destroyed by quarrying, whilst Castell Goetre (3.51 ha) on the Teifi valley near Lampeter does not match its external area. Foel Trigarn in the Preseli hills of north Pembrokeshire is only marginally larger; the main hillfort encloses 3.2 ha but the eastern annexe raises the total enclosed area to 4.11ha. Castell Nadolig comprises an inner oval enclosure, an outer concentric oval enclosure and an annexe added to the east side.

The Ashmolean Museum’s Penbryn Iron Age spoons were discovered in 1829 beneath a ‘.. heap of stones in a part of Castell Nadolig.. which was considered… to have been the praetorium..’ (Barnwell 1862, 214). The nature of the preservation of the copper-alloy spoons (which have been heavily conserved), suggests they originate from a grave covered with boulders or a cairn

The Penbryn Spoons are among the most ornate examples of a rare group of Iron Age artefacts known from Britain, Ireland and northern France. The spoons are large and flat, about the size of an adult’s palm, and this type of artefact is usually found in pairs. Across the wider corpus of Iron Age spoon pairs, one usually has a cross incised in its bowl while the other is plain with an offset perforation. Only 27 individual spoons are known. Given their rarity it has been argued that these spoons were tools used by religious specialists, perhaps Druids, for divination.

We are fortunate to have a rich antiquarian record for Castell Nadolig, several documentary sources of which record valuable archaeological information. Wmffre (2004, 122, Is-coed) records the earliest reference to the name of the site as Kastell Yn Dolig in 1571/72 from the ‘Nouadd MSS’ manuscript, and by 1594 the name ‘Castell Nadolig’ appears in the Gogerddan Estate Records for Penbryn.

The site was visited during the 1859 Cardigan Meeting of the Cambrian Archaeological Association (Malet, 1859, 328) when burials were recorded but before the 1829 spoon finds were widely known; `The next object recorded was a large, strongly fortified camp, called Castell Nadolig, well situated for commanding the passes to the south. The form is unusual, being nearly semicircular, having two lines of defence on the side of its chord, the outer one which is straight, and runs nearly parallel with the present road, the inner one presenting three curves. Another camp joins on to this work, in which was lately found, under a large stone now lying on the spot, three urns containing ashes. Near the same spot may be also seen a considerable number of bones, on the surface of the ground, which have undergone the action of fire’.

Geophysical surveys at Castell Nadolig between 2019-2021, commissioned by RCAHMW from SUMO Ltd, revealed a wealth of new archaeological data, including several plough-levelled certain and possible barrows within and outside the hillfort. This is the first firm evidence of multiple burials at Castell Nadolig and may provide a context for the nineteenth-century finds, as well as enhancing our wider understanding of the ceremonial use of hillforts in Iron Age Wales.

Castell Nadolig remains unexcavated and undated. However, a broken saddle quern of Neolithic to Middle Iron Age type was found by RCAHMW at the site in 2021 (now in Amgueddfa Ceredigion Museum). Scientific analysis of the gold inlay on the cross-incised Penbryn spoon, by Peter Northover as part of the study by Andrew Fitzpatrick in 2007 (296-97), described below, also suggests a terminus ante quem for manufacture no later than the mid-first century BC. It is difficult to know how old the Penbryn spoons were before they were consigned to burial, but if they were manufactured in the second or early first centuries BC it is consistent with a Middle to Late Iron Age occupation at Castell Nadolig, if not into the Romano-British period.

The comprehensive results of recent research have been published as Driver, T., 2023. Castell Nadolig and the Penbryn Spoons: a new investigation. Archaeologia Cambrensis 127, 87-136.

A lecture on ‘Castell Nadolig and the Penbryn Spoons’ delivered by Toby Driver and Andrew Fitzpatrick at the Society of Antiquaries of London on 9th February 2023 can be viewed here:


Toby Driver, RCAHMW, 6th December 2023


Barnwell, E. L. 1862. Bronze articles supposed to be spoons. Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol. VIII Third Series, 208-219.
Craw, J.H. 1923-4. On two bronze spoons from an early Iron Age grave near Burnmouth, Berwickshire. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland 52, 143-60.
Davies and Kirby 1994, Cardigan County History Volume I, 187, 243, 272
Driver, T. 2016. The Hillforts of Cardigan Bay. Logaston Press

Driver, T., 2023. Castell Nadolig and the Penbryn Spoons: a new investigation. Archaeologia Cambrensis 127, 87-136

Driver, T. 2023. The Hillforts of Iron Age Wales. Logaston Press.
Fitzpatrick, A P. 2007. `Druids: Towards an archaeology' in C. Gosden, H. Harrow, P. de Jersey and G. Lock (eds). Communities and Connections: Essays in honour of Barry Cunliffe (Oxford: Oxford University Press), pp. 287-315.
Fradgley, R. 2019. Geophysical Survey Report: Castell Nadolig, Ceredigion. Survey Report 16161, December 2019. SUMO Geophysics Ltd, Upton upon Severn.
Lipscomb, George, Journey into South Wales in the year 1799, (London, 1802), p. 170-171
Malet, 1859. Cardigan Meeting report, Archaeologia Cambrensis Vol V, Third series. 1859. 320-352
Murphy, K and Mytum, H. 2012. Iron Age Enclosed Settlements in West Wales. Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society Vol. 78, 263-313.
Ordnance Survey record card description for SN 25 SE 4
Way, A. 1870. Notices of Certain Bronze Relics, of a Peculiar Type, Assigned to the Late Celtic Period. Archaeologia Cambrensis. Volume 1, Fourth Series, 199-234

Wmffre, I. 2004. The Place-Names of Cardiganshire. Volume I. BAR British Series 379 (I). Archaeopress: Oxford.


application/postscriptGeneral Digital Donations CollectionCastell Nadolig, Cwmtydu; .ai version of a plan of the hillfort showing detail of previously unmapped low earthworks and other topographic features. Note the position of the spring, and the way the earthworks and gateway are respected by the line of the present-day (and probably ancient) road Ramparts are shown in green, surviving ditches in brown. Figure 5.6, The Hillforts of Cardigan Bay, Toby Driver.