My first experiences of digging at Caerau Hillfort

Cardiff University’s Exploring the Past Student Midnight blogs about her first day on site…

I’m filled with excitement as we drive through a red brick housing estate and find the semi-hidden track leading to the top of Caerau hill at our first attempt. I’ve never been on an Archaeological excavation before, my only relevant experience being Geology digs whilst I was at University. Whilst I hope for the same camaraderie as at Geology digs and have watched enough ‘Time Team’ to have some idea what to expect, I am still a little nervous as we exit the car and my sighted assistant guides me to the gazebos set up in the field on the left of the track.

My area to excavate

Once there I’m quickly directed to Olly, our site manager, who gives me the tour of the site and assigns me an area to excavate with some colleagues. Basically the trenches that were excavated by ‘Time Team’ when they visited the site last year have been extended so that Trench 3 for example is now a 30 by 20 metre rectangle.

The area I’m assigned to is a 1 metre by 5 metre oblong on the north western side of trench 3, situated with the 1 metre side on the outside edge (rampart?) of the trench and the 5 metre edge at right angles into the trench. It’s possible to make out a change in ground colour from the outside edge (red) to a darker band which contains a rocky band near the other end of our designated area.

The soil is extremely tough to trowel and hard like concrete

As we start to dig it soon becomes apparent that this will be no easy matter. The soil is like concrete, clay rich and solid. Although we sieve this bit we don’t find much of anything. However, as dull at that may sound, removing these top layers and outer layers enable more interesting things to be revealed which would otherwise go un-noticed. So whilst it was hot, sweaty and somewhat thankless, digging up that outer red band was essential to the bigger picture being built up of what could potentially be under trench 3.

Our progress by the end of the day

As we got nearer to the darker band we continued to sieve the soil that was coming up. We still hadn’t found anything but we were making steady progress and finished the day having cleared about 2 metre’s in, to about a depth of 3 or 4 inches. Given how hard the soil was to break through we felt we’d done a good job getting that far. Than it was off to the pub for a well earned pint and discussion about the days work.

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