CHP’s Mel bogs about engaging the public at Caerau Hillfort…
I’m Mel, a Medievalist and historian, so being out in the fresh air is an exciting novelty for me! Unfortunately with work as well I’m not able to get up to the site more than once or twice a week, but while I’ve been up there I’ve been tweeting #CAER tweets and facebooking pictures of the dig. My primary purpose there, however, is to help out with the public engagement side of things.
We’ve had a few school groups up to visit, where they get to clean the finds – always exciting, as we don’t know what they are like under the mud – make pots using authentic techniques, and get site tours with Olly. After the tour they can sieve the spoil heap to see if we’ve missed anything in the upper layers, and help to peel back the layers in Trench 3 to reveal more of the archaeology.
Meanwhile, we have members of the community coming to have a look too, and everyone wants handle the finds and ask questions! I love helping with the public aspect and being on hand to talk about the site in general, particularly the medieval finds from the spoil heap and the Norman ringwork on the other side, where the thirteenth century church is to be seen. I’ve become increasingly fascinated by the Norman presence and the evidence for late Medieval use of the pre-existing Prehistoric and Roman/Romano-British site. Documentation is yet to be looked at in-depth, and as a historian I am very excited about the idea of documentary source evidence supporting the archaeology. The public often ask about it, and the CAER Heritage Project may be looking at that part of the site in future years.
Weekends at the dig are always very popular, and although because of other commitments I’m not always able to be at the site to help out, the Project has had a great deal of success in terms of visitors. The Project has linked up with GGAT and Guerilla Archaeology, who have helped to set up educational and entertaining activities to engage all ages. CAER even had a bouncy hillfort and a hogroast (free!) on Saturday 6th July, which proved very popular.
The CAER Heritage Project opens itself up to the community, but also goes out to the community. I helped to set up our display and activities at Glyn Derw High School’s fayre, which was a great opportunity to share what we were doing with a wider audience and consolidate our links with the school. I had visited Glyn Derw several times before as one of the co-ordinators of the SHARE with Schools project (sharewithschools.wordpress.com), so it was good to be back there with the students. We got a few of the adults there signing up with their email addresses to be Friends of CAER and be kept updated on events relating to the Heritage Project.
It’s always fun to speak to people and get them interested in the work we’re doing, and it’s not just locals who are intrigued! Through the media presence, including the CAER blog, facebook and twitter, an international audience has been reached. My own blog, tweets and facebook posts have generated interest by people of all walks of life from as far afield as America, Canada and South Africa, who are enjoying following the CAER Heritage Project’s progress! It is this kind of impact that proves the project’s relevancy and supports its longevity. I’m very excited to be a part of it, and am looking forward to getting involved over the next two weeks!