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Meusydd Early Medieval Cemetery

In the dry summer of 1975 an unusual group of cropmarks was recorded in a field near Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant in northern Powys (SJ 13252525). An aerial photograph taken by JKS St Joseph (CUCAP BTW 008) showed a spread of 40 or so elongated pits, each around 2m in length and oriented east to west, closely resembling graves. The field in which these features are located is scheduled as an extension to that covering the prehistoric monuments further to the east (SAM De 220).

AP plot

Right: The distribution of graves revealed as a result of cropmarks in 1975

A magnetometer survey was undertaken by CPAT in 2007 in the hope of identifying further features. Unfortunately, the results were rather disappointing and none of the potential graves were visible.

This was followed in November 2010 by a small-scale excavation as part of a Cadw-funded project to assess potential Early Medieval cemeteries. An area measuring around 7.4m by 5.5m was stripped of topsoil using a machine, and then carefully cleaned by hand. This revealed nine, or possibly ten of the elongated features, two of which were then excavated. Each measured around 2.1m in length, 0.8m wide and around 0.3m deep. Although there was no surviving trace of any skeletal remains there can be little doubt that these are graves. Samples of charcoal were recovered from both graves which will hopefully be suitable for radiocarbon dating.

One of the graves under excavation, photo 3200-0025

Right: Excavating one of the graves

A re-examination of the 1975 aerial photograph has now identified perhaps as many as 70 graves forming a well-ordered cemetery which extends over an area of around 45m by 25m. None of the graves appear to be intercutting and several are arranged in distinct groups. There is no suggestion from the cropmark evidence that the cemetery was enclosed, or that it was associated with any structure, although it is possible that were this of timber construction any remains would be difficult to identify from cropmark evidence alone.

Completed excavation of one of the graves, photo 3200-0036a

Left: The completed excavation of two of the graves

The site lies 1.2km to the south-east of St Dogfan's church in Llanrhaeadr-ym-Mochnant, which originated as a clas foundation in the earlier medieval period. The cemetery at Meusydd is currently thought to be of Early Medieval date and it is possible that it predates the present church.

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