The island of Anglesey in geological terms is a peneplain, that is land that has at one time been under ice. The movement of this ice across the land in the last Quaternery Ice Age eroded it into the familiar undulating plain that we see today. Although much of the island is boulder clay, there are areas of more fertile land which has attracted settlers throughout the ages. Generally the soil is fertile and the milder microclimate that the island enjoys renders it ideal for agriculture.
The Mesolithic Period 8000 - 4000 BC
There are no real traces Mesolithic structures but tools and implements have been found that suggest that the people were nomadic hunters and gatherers. Finds of flint tools were made at Trwyn Du, Aberffraw, and beneath the hut circles on Mynydd Twr.
The Neolithic Period 4000 - 3000 BC
4000 BC saw the emergence of the New Age of Stone or the Neolithic Period. Here were the beginnings of agriculture and where the first manipulation of the environment happened. Small clearings were made and crops and animals were husbanded. Man ceased to be nomadic although he would surely have moved when the soil became too infertile to grow crops. There is little evidence of pottery, but stone axes have been found. Most important however are the ritualistic and more notably the funerary monuments.
These monuments are all over the plains and the downlands and coasts of northern and western Europe. These barrows are artificial heaps of earth and boulders, overgrown with grass and brambles and sometimes trees. Some are round, others are oval, some towering to a great height. They are found along the Atlantic coast of Europe in a broad band from Norway, through Denmark and southern Sweden, to northern Germany and Holland, through the Shetland Isles, northern Scotland, Ireland, Wales, and western England, to Brittany, there on to the coastal zones of Spain and Portugal.
These gigantic monuments had never been discovered, for they had never been unknown. Their construction was attributed to giants, or to the devil. Sometimes they were homes of mythical heroes, such as Coetan Arthur in Wales, or Weyland’s Smithy in England.
Later, however, these structures were at least attributed to man, and were given the name of Megalithic Monuments (mega=large, lithic=of stone). They were thought to be the work of the Celts, and to be part of the Druidical religion. Indeed the 19th Century was well under way before these myths gave way to the more accurate belief that they belonged to a different period, which was dubbed the Age of Stone.
Anglesey has a fair share of these monuments ranging from the partially destroyed to the impressive. There are some 18 megalithic monuments surviving on the island, and they now probably appear different to what they did, as the covering material has long since disappeared. This, however, makes it easier to study the methods of construction. These represent a ‘settling down’ into communities where provision was made for worship and the burial of the dead.
The Later Neolithic saw the construction of more complex structures such as henges. Their function remains uncertain, but a henge is believed to exist at Bryn Celli Ddu upon which the later burial chamber was built. Another example is at Castell Bryn Gwyn near Brynsiencyn.
Bryn Celli Ddu of this period is known as a passage grave and is similar to such structures as New Grange in Ireland. Barclodiad y Gawres is another example.
The Early Bronze Age
As bronze is an alloy of copper and tin, it is probable, although not certain, that the copper element was mined at Mynydd Parys.
The graves constructed in this period were single rather than communal, and the tomb was closed on internment. Bodies were increasingly cremated and the practice began of leaving funerary items, such as pottery beakers, with the dead. Later there were urns which held the cremains. Bedd Branwen near Llanddeusant is a probable example of a Bronze Age burial chamber. It was excavated in 1800, and later by Frances Lynch in 1960. Urns containing human ashes were found.
Later Bronze Age
Agriculture continued to develop and most of the landscape would have been given over to food production. Weapons such as swords and daggers would have become more widespread.
The Iron Age
Timber was being increasingly replaced by stone in the Iron Age, and during this period we have large hill forts such as Caer y Twr and Dinas Gynfor. Settlements such as the Mynydd y Twr hut circles (a type known in Welsh as Cytiau’r Gwyddelod - the Huts of the Irish.) and Din Lligwy were built. Caer Leb also seems to be of roughly the same date.