A short overview of the fascinating history of Wales: how the nation was shaped and its current place in the United Kingdom.
The Greatest Jawbone – 230,000-Year-Old Neanderthal Relic Found in Wales
The rugged but beautiful country of Wales has been occupied for nearly a quarter of a million years, and there is physical proof of this in the shape of a jawbone, found at Bontnewydd in North Wales. The site is known as a Palaeolithic site, having been excavated in 1978. Along with the jawbone, which is believed to have belonged to an eleven-year-old boy, various teeth from at least five different individuals were found.
The next oldest set of remains are the so-called Red Lady of Paviland, actually the skeleton of a young man. This red ochre-dyed skeleton is thought to be the earliest example of ceremonial burial in Western Europe, and he is estimated to have lived 33,000 years ago.
Vagaries of weather wrought havoc on early human populations everywhere, but with the receding of the last ice age, men were able to settle and thrive in Wales from 8,000 BC. The beginnings of agriculture burgeoned, with early farming communities springing up from about 4,000 BC. There are many ancient burial chambers and tombs that date from this period still existent and that can be visited today.
The art and science of metal working was discovered at around 2,500 BC and within a relatively short time, bronze was being alloyed and formed into a wealth of items. The climate was pleasant at this time, and this would have made life relatively easy for all. A change for the worse: colder temperatures and so on, is thought to have occurred around 1,250 BC, which meant that people had to be deployed to protect the best, most fertile lands from neighbouring peoples who came in search of resources once their own crops had let them down. Iron implements came into their own from 600 BC with a sword dating from that era being found at Llyn Fawr. This led to a time during which a multitude of hillforts were built over much of the country, and some of these are now tourist attractions, educating people about the rich history of Wales.
Traditionally, historians believed that the population of Wales was very fluid, but this theory has been revised: the current thinking is that, while some groups moved around from country to country, across the sea and the rest of Britain, the basic population of Wales was established by around 2,000 BC, and it is, broadly speaking, this population base whose genetic inheritance can still be found throughout the nation.