The Caerau Hillfort Dig 2015

A blog by Exploring the Past student and volunteer Midnight

On Monday 6th July I returned to the archaeological dig at Caerau Hillfort for the third year in a row. Together with my trusty support worker, and with trowel in hand, I was rearing to go.

Unlike previous years where the weather has been baking hot and extremely bright, the Monday was grey, overcast and we even had a few showers. However, this helped keep the dust from the digging to a minimum.

As there was insufficient space for me to layout for digging in Trench 3, I was assigned to sieving. I was using a large rectangular sieve set in a tripod structure to go through the buckets of soil from Trench 3 to start with. I didn’t find anything, unfortunately, but others have found pottery shards and the like in Trench 3 over the last 2 weeks.

Sieving at Trench 5a

Sieving at Trench 5a

After the break I was assigned to Trench 5a and with my lovely assistant Ellen (I do hope I’ve spelt that right), we used a similar large sieve to go through the soil coming from Trench 5a. Whilst Ellen found numerous bits of pottery and even a small fragment of bone, I only found a thick pottery sherd. Dating of these sherds is hesitant at present and we await the arrival of a pottery expert to assist with this.

Despite the showers and slightly lower temperature, today was productive and insightful, and I eagerly awaited tomorrow’s adventure!

Tuesday 7th was a wet world! As the wind guested and clouds moved across the sky, one minute sunny, the next gray; I sat under a small gazebo and washed finds from Trench 3. To wash finds you need a tray with the finds in, a tray with some newspaper laid down, a bowl of clean water and a toothbrush. Gently brushing the find with a damp toothbrush, the soil and debris on the find is removed to reveal what lies beneath. Warning, never dip the find in the water!

Cleaning finds under the Gazebo

Cleaning finds under the Gazebo

I worked mainly on different types of pottery and some bone fragments. The pottery was interesting and I mainly cleaned three types; thin, black ware; medium dark brown ware and thick coarse ware. We await a pottery specialist to accurately date there fragments but as they were found in a Roman age midden it’s fair to say they may be Roman in age. Some of these fragments had slightly visible patterns and faint ridges or lines as well as edges.

Cleaning finds is as important to an archaeological dig as the digging itself. Without careful logging, cleaning and preservation of the finds we would have little idea about the use and relative age of the site. It’s also exciting to hold something in your hand that may have last been held 100’s of years ago and wonder if it was a precious, cared for possession or if it was a ubiquitous transportation vessel and given as little thought then as the thought we give the bottles we drink out of today.

Digging square 33 in Trench 3

Digging square 33 in Trench 3


Wednesday was all about ‘square 33 and the hidden treasure’! Despite the rain and the gooey chocolate cake like mud, I was laid out in trench three, digging a Roman midden! We used a slightly different technique to dig here, excavating the midden in squares so that all finds could be recorded accurately.

I was allocated square 33 which was 50×50 cm and asked to dig down 10 cm’s; sieving as I went. At first the going was tough and the site seemed barren. However, I did find (after a couple of hours of digging) a small fragment of white bone, possibly animal; and a little while later a large fragment of Oxford pottery.

Digging is obviously the most important part and main focus of an archaeological dig. It’s important to be careful while digging not to accidentally destroy finds with over enthusiastic use of the trowel. It’s important to note this as one digs down through time.

Bone fragment

Bone fragment

While I didn’t finish my square in the time allocated, overall today was a productive and exciting day.

Midnight

CAER HEDZ

Our on-site animation studio ...

Our on-site animation studio …

CAER Heritage Project community digs are nothing if not groundbreaking (no pun intended) but this time we really feel that we have pioneered a first in archaeology – by creating a hi-tec animation studio directly on site.

Working with CAER Heritage Project lead artist Paul Evans, and film maker Jon Harrison, pupils from Glyn Derw High School and Michaelston Community College worked in small groups with the latest technology to create short animation sequences for our forthcoming film ‘CAER HEDZ’.

P1010070

Everyone on site created their own ‘Celtic Head’ …

Over 40 were made in total, each a uniquely creative response to the same subject ...

Over 40 were made in total, each a uniquely creative response to the same subject …

Then, during lunchtime, everyone on site – including young people, community volunteers and Cardiff University archaeologists – downed tools to each make an individual ‘Celtic Head’ based on Iron Age examples. Over 40 heads were made in this way – revealing an amazing amount of skill and creativity – and contributing to ‘a unique, collective, creative moment’.

CAER Heritage project directors Dave and Olly looking focussed on the task in hand ...

CAER Heritage project directors Dave and Olly looking focussed on the task in hand …

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An excellent reaction to the variety of work from our on-site artists …

8 of these heads will be used to create animations that will be lip-synched animations with local voices from volunteers that were interviewed in The Hubs at an earlier date.

The CAER HEDZ emerge into the light of day from an Iron Age post-hole.

The CAER HEDZ emerge into the light of day from an Iron Age post-hole.

Towards the end of the working day all of these heads were placed in an arrangement around one of the post-hole excavations, emerging, as it were from the deep past!

All photos © Paul Evans 2015

 

 

The BIG CAER Geophysics competition!

Here’s your chance to flex your archaeological muscles! Take a look at the amazing results from the latest geophysical survey inside and around the Caerau Ringwork by the CAER team and local volunteers and let us know what you think you can see.

How to Enter? It’s easy!

Take a good look at the two images below – these are the results of the latest geophysical results around Caerau Ringwork. Geophysics helps us ‘see’ under the ground surface without having to dig – see here for an explanation of how geophysics works and how to interpret the results.

Caerau Magentometry

Results of the magnetometry (Young 2015). Base mapping Crown Copyright/databse right 2015. An Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service

 

 

ResMap

Results of the resisitivity (Young 2015). Base mapping Crown Copyright/databse right 2015. An Ordnance Survey/EDINA supplied service

 

Study the results from both images very closely to see if you can spot any buildings or other potentially important archaeological features in them. THEN you need to:

EITHER

Write a short paragraph (maximum 500 words) that tells us what you think you can see

OR

Create an image that tells us what you think you can see

OR YOU CAN DO BOTH!

There are two age group categories for this competition.

Ages 8-18

Ages 18 and above

Please can you indicate your age clearly on your entry.

The entrant with the most convincing looking interpretation of the geophys results will win their choice of one of the following great prizes:

For age category 8-18: AN AMAZON KINDLE WORTH £59.00

For age category 18+

YOU CAN CHOOSE BETWEEN EITHER

  • A free personal flint-knapping workshop with a master flint-knapper for you and a friend in which you will learn how to make a flint tools using the same techniques our Stone Age ancestors at Caerau would have been familiar with.

OR

  • A free amazing weekend archaeology course ‘Shrines Stars and Sacrifice‘ taught by the brilliant Dani Hoffman and exploring the techniques that archaeologists use to understand rituals at prehistoric sites like Caerau.

 

PLEASE send your interpretations of the results to Caer@Cardiff.ac.uk OR you can drop them into Dave Horton at the Dusty Forge in person (please ensure they are clearly marked with a name, age and contact email or phone number) by 5pm Friday 8th May.

The winner will be decided by the CAER team and will be judged on both archaeological skill and imagination. All decisions are final.

Raising the Roof: How to Build a Roundhouse

Have you ever thought about building a house…not just any house…but an Iron Age roundhouse!? The thought never came to my mind, until I saw a poster next to Dr Olly Davis’s office at the University. St Fagans National History Museum needed the assistance of CAER Heritage Project volunteers to help out and test our knowledge, endurance in a bad weather, and our physical fitness in a bit of experimental archaeology.

John explains all about the Thatching process with the massivce roundhouses in the background

John explains all about the Thatching process with the massive roundhouses in the background

Olly would drive us out to St Fagans every week. The first time we were walking up the little muddy path towards the roundhouse building site, we weren’t sure what to expect. Needless to say, this was something completely new to all of us. But when we reached the end of the path and there was a small opening with two massive roundhouses staring down at us, we just stopped in awe.

If you’ve ever been to St. Fagans, you will know that amazing historic buildings from around Wales have been quite literally taken apart and re-erected, piece-by-piece, at the Museum.

Laying on the heather undercoat

Laying on the heather undercoat

However, the building of Iron Age roundhouses is quite different. These buildings were originally constructed more than 2,000 years ago out of timber and clay, material that has long since decomposed. The roundhouses at St Fagans then are reconstructions, but they are based on excavated archaeological evidence from Bryn Eryr in Anglesey. However, only the ground-plans of the houses at Bryn Eryr survived so this project was all about thinking about how our Iron Age ancestors might have built their homes.

We were to help out with the thatching of the houses. The thatching team at the Museum was led by John Letts, a palaeo-botanist and historic thatch specialist. He gave us a quick introduction and unravelled the story of the construction so far, and told us a little a bit about thatching.

Bundling the straw together for the thatch

Bundling the straw together for the thatch

There is no evidence in the archaeological record of what the roofs looked like, or what the techniques of thatching were in the Iron Age. We learned that the weathering coats and thatching techniques were based on surviving medieval roofs from England and Ireland, and the materials were selected from the array of seeds found in the archaeological record. We tried out several thatching techniques to see which worked best…after all, this is the whole point of experimental archaeology!

Before we were allowed to work on the roof we had to complete a working at height training session. But once we were let loose, it turns out students of archaeology are born thatchers (backup plan!!).

Stuff-thatching the roof

Stuff-thatching the roof

The roof, almost finished!

The roof, almost finished!

If you ever visit St Fagans Museum, this is a house to see and if it’s cold and rainy, gather around the hearth and for a few minutes travel back to the Iron Age, and perhaps try some of John’s Iron Age beer while you’re there.

Admiring our handiwork - Christmas celebration in the roundhouse

Admiring our handiwork – Christmas celebration in the roundhouse

Vesna Podrzaj

For more information about the Bryn Eryr project click here

Postcards from the Past | Postcards to the Future

Future postman ...

Future postman … Photo courtesy of David Owen/NCCPE

Tread softly, don’t forget, we do this for you.

Love,

Your Ancestors

On Wednesday 3rd December Paul Evans and Jeff Trask created this unusual encounter for the NCCPE Engage Conference in Bristol. Dressed as characters from the past and from the future (Jeff wore a medieval costume, the identity of the future postman remains something of a mystery), our time-travelling postmen invited conference delegates to write postcards either from the past to the present or from the present to the future*. Around forty highly original, imaginative (and some very moving) postcards were written, and the quality of the handwriting was judged as exemplary by our postman.

Please see below for a few examples, chosen more or less at random from our postbags.

Postcard to the past or postcard to the future?

Postcard to the past or postcard to the future? Photo courtesy of David Owen/NCCPE

 

Hello Humans!

Be excellent to each other – and don’t eat the red Smarties!

To the future!

Learn from the past & our mistakes. Be open and emotional, responsive & communicative. When aliens come, be their friends!

I hope everything is good for you & that we didn’t mess it up too much.

Charlotte X

We used to enjoy watching people kick balls into nets …

a team called Arsenal were the best at this.

It is OK to be radical

We’ve trodden too heavily on the earth, and forgotten to live in more equitable ways.

We’ve much to learn from the past in terms of the danger of walking heavily and the benefits of walking lightly.

We’ve one earth – engage with it wisely.

The university no longer exists – it becomes public.

Don’t trust the English!

When they come to visit your country to ‘help you out’ they actually plan to stay for 800 years and make you eat potatoes!!!

Dear the Future,

Sorry for breaking the environment and the healthcare system!

Hope you’re all OK!

P.S. Here’s a drawing of a tree in case you don’t know what one looks like X

To whom it may concern,

Let it be noted that you have not been forgotten and we are still learning from the relics you left behind and these experiences bring new engagements and relationships for the future!

Reality TV is a bad idea – don’t do it!

Don’t repeat the same mistakes generations before you have made.

*Even allowing for seasonal disruptions in the temporal continuum, we are confident that all of these postcards will have reached their destination in time for Christmas.

 

Digging Communities | Connected Communities Festival Part 3: The Connected Communities Banner Procession

CAERAU: HISTORY IS OUR FUTURE

CAERAU: HISTORY IS OUR FUTURE

In the third of three blog posts, Caer Heritage Project Lead Artist Paul Evans looks back on three creative projects that he was involved in co-curating for the AHRC Connected Communities Festival 2014. 

The Connected Communities Banner Procession arose through a collaborative process involving: Glyn Derw High School & the Healthy Wealthy and Wise Group from Caerau & Ely; St Aloysius School & Dowlais Primary Schools, Merthyr Tydfil; Dr Ellie Byrne, Research Associate for Representing Communities, Cardiff University; Sian Williams, librarian at the South Wales Miners’ Library; Dr David Wyatt from the CAER Heritage Project and Paul Evans, CAER Heritage Project lead artist.

Our designs, which were unveiled during a spectacular procession from Bute Park to Cardiff Bay, were developed during a series of intensive workshops led by Paul Evans in the communities of Caerau & Ely and Merthyr Tydfil. Each workshop was undertaken in the same format, where the young (and not so young) participants first devised a series of circular motifs based on traditional miners’ banner designs – and then invented a powerful slogan to encapsulate a positive message connecting past, present and future.

Banner design workshop with the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise group.

Banner design workshop with the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise group.

 

Glyn Derw's banner - work in progress ...

Glyn Derw’s banner – work in progress …

 

Banner design workshop at St Aloysius, Merthyr Tydfal ...

The banner design workshop at St Aloysius, Merthyr Tydfil …

... and at Dowlais.

… and the one at Dowlais.

Digging Communities | Connected Communities Festival Part 2: Photos & Iolo

Photos & Iolo at St Fagans

Photos & Iolo at St Fagans

In the second of three blog posts, Caer Heritage Project Lead Artist Paul Evans looks back on three creative projects that he was involved in co-curating for the AHRC Connected Communities Festival 2014. 

Photos and Iolo is a CAER Heritage Project exhibition format that was developed and co-produced by artist Paul Evans with pupils from Glyn Derw High School, National Museum Wales staff Loveday Williams, Owain Rhys and Ian Daniel, and CAER Heritage Project directors Dave Wyatt and Oliver Davis.

Consisting of a series of re-usable pop-up banners (the very essence of a ‘pop-up’ exhibition in fact), Photos and Iolo is an interactive experience that encourages viewers to get involved with the images on display by searching for the bard Iolo (or Ian Daniel) – cunningly photoshopped into images of Caerau and Ely that were taken by local residents. Once the participants have found Iolo then they are encouraged to take part in a riddle competition (similar to that which takes place in JRR Tolkein’s The Hobbit).

The Riddles in our competition were created by pupils from Glyn Derw High School during a workshop led by Paul Evans and Mel Julian-Jones.

As a reward for getting the riddles correct participants are given either an Iolo t-shirt, carrier bag or a copy of the specially produced booklet featuring images from Caerau and Ely’s recent past. Many of these images come from Nigel Billingham’s remarkable Barnardos project which took place in the 1980s. During this project Barnardos had a Photographer in Residence who worked with local people to create an archive of locally made images.

There are still a few of these beautifully produced publications available – please contact us if you live in Caerau and Ely and would like a copy.