Thursday, 1 March 2012

Three things you didn't know about Welsh history

Happy St. David's Day to all of our Welsh archaeologists, enthusiasts and ex-pats! It's a day of celebration and a great day to be Welsh, and BASS is already celebrating with a double pint of Brains SA. We've heard that there are many pluses to being Welsh, but here's a few things about Welsh history that you were probably unaware of.

  • Ancient Welsh cannibals inhabited the South Wales Valleys
Nestled deep in the Cynon Valley, archaeologists have uncovered a hasty pit burial with at least sixteen incomplete skeletons. The bones show tool and teeth marks, indicating that the meat had been picked clean off the bones. Incised into one of the bones was the proto-Welsh phrase,

"ar yr amod ein bod yn bwyta'r Saesneg"
which roughly translates in our modern tongue as "So long as we eat the English". The significance of this find is yet to be determined.

Cheers, Billy!
  • Wales lets itself get 'invaded' whenever it needs new buildings 

Ever the quick thinking, industrious people, the Welsh don't see the need to create their own strongholds when they can have others do it for them. In CE 47, the Welsh conspired to allow Roman governor Publius Ostorius Scapula access into the country on condition that he get cracking on building some forts. This he did in earnest and when the Romans buggered off again in CE 410 they had a country's worth of free forts.

When the forts started to get into a bit of disrepair, they let the English in. Taking advantage of William the Conqueror (a.k.a Billy Bastard)'s enthusiasm to run around building stuff, the Welsh opened its doors to him and let him crack on with Chepstow Castle in 1067. Now the Welsh had a country's worth of castles. That's ingenuity right there. The fact that Cardiff Castle has a Norman castle built on top of foundations of a Roman fort pretty much proves this.

Don't hitch your horse there, milord!
  • Medieval Welshmen figured out what Stonehenge was all about
A little known passage from The Mabinogi was discovered in a 14th Century wine cellar in Gwynedd, in which the Prince of Dyfed speaks of the 'circle of blue stone'. The tattered parchment has revealed a few, faded words,
"y cylch o gerrig glas, o bosib y mwyaf a gynlluniwyd yn wael sefydlog awyr agored a welais erioed"

which roughly translates as, "The cirlce of blue stones, possibly the most poorly designed open-air stable I have ever seen"

1 comment:

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Great 'tongue in cheek' history lesson. I wonder how many civilizations have cannibals in their backgrounds.