Palaeolithic (Old Stone Age): 200,000 – 10,000 BC. For much of this period, Wales was covered by ice sheets, and was uninhabited. However, parts of south Pembrokeshire were not under ice. They would have resembled the dry tundra of present-day Siberia. Evidence for early human occupation of the area comes from cave sites, including caves on Caldey Island. The hunter-gatherers of this remote period survived by following migrating animal herds, and hunting creatures like wild horse, bison and deer.
The opening into one of the caves on Caldey Island. Some of these caves contain evidence for the activities of animals and people during the Palaeolithic.
Mesolithic (Middle Stone Age): 10,000 – 4000 BC. These people were hunter-gatherers. They travelled in small bands, making temporary, short-term shelters – consequently, they left few traces. Small flint tools, known as microliths, are very typical of this period. The Nab Head was occupied around 9,000 years ago, and archaeologists there found worked flint, shells, and decorative beads.
Neolithic (New Stone Age): 4000 – 2300 BC. The Neolithic people are often known as the first farmers. They began to cultivate crops, and to practise animal husbandry. They also began to build monuments to honour their dead and respect their ancestors. One of Pembrokeshire's most famous monuments, Pentre Ifan burial chamber, dates back to the Neolithic. We know very little about day to day life in the Neolithic but it was an era of great change, from mobile hunter-gatherers to settled farmers.
Bronze Age: 2300 – 650 BC. During the Bronze Age, we think that the population steadily increased. People became more skilled in metalworking, producing beautiful decorative artefacts as well as tools and weapons. Stone circles are thought to date to this period, along with burial mounds and cairns. At Stackpole Warren, a Bronze Age settlement was preserved under the dunes.
One of the stones in the Gors Fawr stone circle. This monument is thought to date to the Bronze Age. It is one of a large number of prehistoric ritual sites in the Preselis.
Iron Age: 650 BC – 43 AD. Many of the coastal and inland promontory forts are thought to date to this period, although some may have begun earlier, in the Bronze Age. During the Iron Age, people were farming both crops and livestock, and were also managing wild resources such as woodlands and reedbeds. The reconstructed roundhouses at Castell Henllys give a flavour of Iron Age life.
Castell Henllys Iron Age Hill Fort
Roman: 43 – 410 AD. The Claudian invasion of 43AD signaled the beginning of the end for the Iron Age in Britain. Although the Romans did not make the same kind of impact in Wales as they did in England, the native Welsh population felt their influence. Some of our coastal promontory forts, like the one at St David's Head, show evidence of Roman period occupation and there have been finds of Roman metalwork and coins.
Early Medieval (Dark Age): 410 – 1066 AD. This period is often known in Wales as the Age of the Saints, or the early Christian period. There were strong religious connections between Wales, Brittany and Ireland at this time, with pilgrims travelling, often by boat, between religious sites. The Park has a number of cemetery sites from this period, like those at St Ishmaels and St Brides.
Medieval: 1066 – 1485 AD. During this period, the county was sharply split in two. The north of the county largely retained native, pre-Norman Welsh customs, whilst the south of the county was much more influenced by the Norman way of life. Carew Castle is a spectacular example of Medieval architecture, and is set in a landscape which preserves other Medieval elements, such as the strip fields around Manorbier.
Post-Medieval: 1485 – 1899 AD. Modern-day Pembrokeshire was founded on three main industries – ship-buildings, coal and lime. Other industries, like stone-quarrying and fishing also played a critical part in Pembrokeshire's economy. Traces of all of these industries can be found throughout the Park, and at sites like Porthgain and Abereiddy, the remains of the industrial past are particularly spectacular.
Porthgain was an important industrial site which was in use from the 19th century through to the early 20th century. The brick-built hoppers by the side of the harbour (left of the picture) were used for storing crushed stone ready for loading onto boats.
Modern: 1900 AD – present. The strategic importance of the Pembrokeshire coastline and waterways – especially the Haven – has long been recognised, and it has been defended and fortified across the centuries. Remains of WWI and WWII buildings and airfields are an important part of the Park's archaeology, and are a clear link to our more recent past.