Institute of Archaeology


Rhiannon Comeau

Rhiannon Comeau

Land, people and power in early medieval Wales: the cantref of Cemais in comparative perspective


Email: rhiannon.comeau.10@ucl.ac.uk

Section: World Archaeology


Land, people and power in early medieval Wales: the cantref of Cemais in comparative perspective

The archaeological landscape of early medieval Wales is notoriously poorly understood, with ramifications both for national identity and the creation of coherent narratives, and also for the construction of a balanced and representative understanding of early medieval Europe. The material record is problematic, due to aceramic traditions, low coin use, unfurnished burials, acid soils, and limited excavations, and historical documentation is limited.

My research addresses these problems through a multidisciplinary analysis of the landscape of the early medieval cantref (hundred/ supra local district) of Cemais in south-west Wales. This detailed, comparative study identifies the structure and elements (economic, administrative and social) of the early medieval landscape, and considers the expression, at different spatial and temporal levels, of individual and communal engagement with the landscape. Analysis examines the materialisation of ideas and events in place-names, loci (especially stones and barrows) and intersite relationships, as well as the patterns of landscape use that are shown in seasonal agricultural practices and in fairs, assemblies and other events of a ritual or ceremonial nature.

As well as providing insight into a little-understood area, this research is intended to provide comparative data for assessing the evidence of other regions and also the validity of existing models of early medieval settlement. Among the areas of debate that are implicated in this research are the use of the landscape by early medieval elites; the landscape impact of early medieval Christianity; the multiple estate model; post-Roman Irish (Deisi) settlement; and the processes of the Anglo-Norman Conquest.




    • MA, Research Methods for Archaeology, UCL, 2012
    • Diploma in Field Archaeology, Birkbeck College, 2008
    • BA, Architecture, University of Cambridge, 1977

    Comeau, R. 2012: From Tref (gordd) to Tithe: Identifying Settlement Patterns in a North Pembrokeshire Parish. Landscape History 33(1), 29-44

    Comeau, R. 2012: Memories preserved: antiquities and oral traditions of Dinas in the writings of Gwynrug, 1908-9. Journal of the Pembrokeshire History Society 21, 5-15

    Comeau, R. 2009: Cytir and Crosses: the archaeological landscape of the Parish of Dinas' Archaeologia Cambrensis 158 (published 2010), 225-253

    Conference papers

    Stones, saints and the seasons: an early medieval landscape of assembly in West Wales, Society for Medieval Archaeology Postgraduate Colloquium, Cardiff, November 2012

    Signing in Stone, IoA Graduate Student Conference, UCL, February 2012

    Gŵyl Awst at Garn Fawr: a hilltop assembly in West Wales? Conference poster, presented at Power and Place in Later Roman and Early Medieval Europe, UCL, November 2011

    From Vidir Crwys to Brynhenllan: using landscape evidence to reconstruct an early medieval settlement pattern Early Medieval Wales Archaeology Research Group, Cardiff, March 2010