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Archaeologists examine the Pillar of Eliseg

Archaeologists from Welsh universities have begun two weeks of excavations at the Pillar of Eliseg, a ninth-century AD stone monument which stands on a prehistoric mound near Valle Crucis Abbey Llangollen, in north-east Wales. There will be an open afternoon at the archaeological site on Friday 16 September, between 3 – 6pm.

Project Eliseg is is using modern archaeological methods to investigate the mound on which the Pillar stands and their setting. Professor Nancy Edwards of Bangor University said “The main aim of the project is better to understand this enigmatic monument and how it was used and reused over time.”

The Pillar of Eliseg, originally a tall stone cross, stands on a mound and is still a striking landmark. Now only part of a round shaft survives set within its original base. Almost invisible to today’s visitor, the Pillar once bore a long Latin inscription saying that the cross was raised by Concenn, ruler of the kingdom of Powys, who died in AD 854, in memory of his great-grandfather, Eliseg, who had driven Anglo-Saxon invaders out of the area.

By the late seventeenth century the Pillar was no longer standing, but the damaged inscription was recorded by the famous Welsh antiquary Edward Lhuyd. The mound was dug into in 1773 by the local land-owner Thomas Lloyd and is reported to have contained a stone cist with a skeleton. He also re-erected the Pillar and this was recorded in a second inscription on the shaft.

In 2010 excavations focussed on the mound which was identified as an Early Bronze Age cairn. Professor Nancy Edwards said ‘This year we are returning to the cairn to investigate the nature and extent of the eighteenth-century ‘dig’ and the make up of the Bronze Age cairn’. The project is part of works by Cadw to conserve the mound and better explain the monument to the public.

Project Eliseg is co-directed by Professor Nancy Edwards and Dr Gary Robinson of Bangor University together with Professor Howard Williams of the University of Chester. There is strong community involvement led by Llangollen Museum. The project is currently funded by Cadw, Bangor University and the University of Chester.

Follow the excavation on the Llangollen Museum Facebook page or read their website at http://www.projecteliseg.org

See also: Early medieval Wales: an updated framework for archaeological research

Source: Bangor University

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