Sunday, 20 April 2008

Gwyddno Garanhir and The Sunken Land of Cantre'r Gwealod

This is as near as I can get for the appropriate picture, as this is the Cardiganshire coast just below Aberystwyth. Click to enlarge.

Translated into English, this means the Lowland Hundred (though my son insists it literally means "bottom town!" . . . ) I know of it through Welsh legends - it was the land which was beyond the Cardiganshire coast which is now beneath the waves. This legend is connected with Gwyddno Garanhir (Gwyddno Long-Shanks or Crane-Legs), who is supposedly the ancestor of the family who built on the site of our Welsh farmhouse. Their original "Great Hall" either lies beneath the present house, or quite possibly along the line of our driveway, as we have found some enormous boulders (one about the size of our dustbin) still in situ. Here they entertained their guests, including a Bardic poet, Lewis Glyn Cothi.

Gwyddno Garanhir was apparently king of this land, which was protected from the encroaching sea by a dyke called Sarn Badrig (St Patrick's causeway). Unfortunately, one of the princes who was in charge of the sea defences, was known as a drunkard and through his negligence the sea came in through the open floodgates. With my archaeology hat on, I've always wondered whether this wasn't an ancient memory from the Mesolithic, when the glaciers melted and sea-levels rose - rather like the world-wide ancestral memories of the Great Flood. There are apparently signs of natural pebble ridges along the coastline further north in the Barmouth area, and also remains of a fossil forest at Borth. The legend has it that in times of great danger, the bells of the sunken churches of Cantre'r Gwaelod will ring out beneath the waves.

Gwyddno's son Elffin ap Gwyddno was the foster-father of the legendary Welsh poet Taliesin, and to read his story you will have to Google him for the moment, though I shall try and write a piece on him later in the week. Taliesin flourished around 534 - 599 and also has tentative links to "King Arthur" although these links stem from much later Medieval writings.

Gosh, if only I could step into the past . . .

1 comment:

MammyT said...

Living where you do is a real incentive to archaeological study. Here in America there are not many layers of civilization. I'm afraid if I lived on a site such as yours I'd be tempted to dig right in the garden, straight down until I found something interesting or, lacking that, move on to another spot and do the same. I'd never be able to keep horses (or children) for all the holes to break their legs in!
Another fascinating post.