Hill Forts of the Silures

By approximately 1000 B.C., the era of tranquillity from the past was slowly fading away. A new period of unrest was on the rise, leading to the transformation of traditional open farmsteads into fortified settlements. The necessity to defend these settlements likely arose due to the intensifying conflicts over the fertile lowlands. These disputes were possibly triggered by the deteriorating climate, which may have forced many inhabitants to migrate from the once habitable uplands and vie with each other for control over the coveted lowlands. In South Wales this was probably further complicated by widespread flooding of the low lying Gwent Levels.

The Silures, were a people who were likely governed by a warrior aristocracy and were later described by the Roman historian Tacitus as having a distinctive appearance of being “ruddy faced and curly haired”. Over the next five centuries, the Silures constructed fortified hillforts. These hillforts were defended by earthen banks and ditches, with a timber palisade on top. Inside, there may have been small Iron Age “villages”. It is unlikely that the Silures permanently resided in these hillforts, as they likely coexisted with simpler, defended or undefended farmsteads and settlements in the area.

The Silures were known for their extensive trading activities, involving a wide range of goods. Their flourishing trade network extended at least as far as Rome, allowing for the exchange of luxury items. It was common for the ruling aristocracy to have luxury goods buried with them in their graves, possibly as a symbol of their wealth and social status, ensuring that their cherished possessions would accompany them to the afterlife. Interestingly, the graves themselves were usually modest in appearance, indicating a departure from the earlier practice of constructing cairns or elaborate burial mounds.

Excavations have shown that interiors of hillforts were often dominated by groups of post holes, which define Roundhouses. They also contain a large number of four post structures which are interpreted as granaries.

Hillforts by County

In Caerphilly County Borough

City and County of Cardiff

Bridgend County Borough


Rhondda Cynon Taf

Swansea and Gower

Vale of Glamorgan