Dolaucothi Roman history

This brooch, found at Dolaucothi, is a typical Roman design © Carmarthen Museum

This brooch, found at Dolaucothi, is a typical Roman design

On entering our car park at Dolaucothi Gold Mines you may not notice anything unusual. You will see our mine yard situated on the hillside above. You may also observe the undulating woodland overlooking the site. You might even spy some small hills surrounding the area. Yet nothing is what it seems...

The mine yard is at the centre of the largest open-cast pit on site, called Ogofau, which was first mined by the Romans. The woodland above undulates because it contains several more pits and trenches, also excavated by the Romans, in their extensive pursuit of gold. The small hills that surround the site are the remains of spoil tips where unwanted material was dumped. Everywhere you look Dolaucothi has been shaped by the tools of history.

Roman beginnings
Between 70AD and 80 AD, the Romans began the first extensive mining of Dolaucothi, creating large open-cast workings and digging several tunnels (adits) to exploit the gold veins.

Most of this was achieved using nothing more than picks and hammers in what must have been very hard labour. Some of the original pick-marks, which are almost 2,000 years old, can still be seen in the adits that are visited on our Roman Tour.

Aqueducts and leats
The Romans demonstrated other technological advances too, as they devised an aqueduct system to bring water from local rivers to the mines. These aqueducts (leats) brought water  for the purposes of scouring away the topsoil and to wash the crushed ore.

These leat channels, as well as the remains of the water tanks that some of them were once connected to, can also be seen on our Roman Tour.

Establishment and departure
No one knows how the Romans first found or heard about Dolaucothi, though we do know that the precious metals yielded in Britain, and in particular Wales, was a reason for their invasion.

We also know they established a fort in an area that now encompasses the village of Pumsaint, soon after arriving in Carmarthenshire, in the 70s AD and began mining shortly after.

The Romans did not remain for very long in the area, however. In 125 AD, the Roman military largely abandoned the fort, but there is evidence of continuing activity in the area thanks to discoveries of Roman coins dating to the late 4th century.