Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 October 2013
Early medieval stone sculpture is the most important archaeological evidence we currently have for identifying the process of conversion to Christianity and the development and distribution of ecclesiastical foundations and related sites in Wales before the twelfth century. Moreover, close examination of the sculpture – including quantification, and consideration of its archaeological and historical context, geology, form, function, ornament and inscriptions – also allows us to study it as an important manifestation of material, economic and social investment and consequently to pose other interesting questions concerning cultural contacts, wealth and patronage, the ownership of land and the relationship between secular rulers and the Church.
To date, research on the early medieval sculpture of north-west Wales has tended to focus on the inscribed memorial stones of the fifth to seventh centuries. Though some of the later monuments have been discussed, notably by H. Harold Hughes and C. A. R. Radford, a number were not noted in Nash-Williams's Early Christian Monuments of Wales and several others have come to light more recently. The aim of this paper is to focus on the Viking-Age sculpture of northwest Wales, especially Anglesey, which is broadly datable from the tenth to early twelfth centuries, and to examine the complete range of carved stone monuments, not just the large-scale, free-standing decorated crosses, particularly those at Penmon, which have tended to receive most attention in the past.