As we move towards the end of the second week of the CAER Big Dig, archaeologist Olly Davis gives us an update of the discoveries so far…
“When we first thought about doing the CAER Big Dig back in March, it was the start of the lockdown and we didn’t know if anyone would want to get involved. But, the response has been absolutely amazing – more than 35 test pits have now been dug and around 100 people have got their trowels out and hands dirty! What’s really exciting is that new people keep signing up everyday.
Lots of people have now sent in pictures of their discoveries or let us know about their finds. A few even joined us on Tuesday with Time Team’s Carenza Lewis for a fantastic finds identifying session. We know people have been living in Ely and Caerau for 6,000 years at least, so as we start to bring things together, what patterns can we see and what are the types of objects people have found?
What’s clear already is that the further down you dig, the further back in time you go. The first 20-30 cm of your test pit tends to contain the traces of the last 100 years or so. People have found lots of fragments of flowerpot as well as broken brick and tile – perhaps the remains of gardens past and present. Coal has often been recovered too, surely an echo of the time before gas fired central heating! Broken crockery, glass and children’s toys also tell a story. Some of these are very personal – one keen digger found a old toy soldier lost in the garden over 30 years ago!
As people have dug deeper, the number of finds tends to get fewer, but older. One thing I’ve been surprised about is the amount of flint discovered. Flint isn’t natural to Wales, but it’s been brought here by people for thousands of years to make tools and weapons. We know people were meeting and using flint on Caerau Hillfort 6,000 years ago in the Stone Age. However, the number of flints recovered from all the test pits suggests that they must have been living and working in the areas now covered by the houses of Caerau and Ely.
Perhaps my favourite finds so far is a small fragment of pottery. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is over 2,000 years old! It’s a rim sherd from an Iron Age bowl. It was found around 90 cm down on the north side of Ely – a location with no known prehistoric sites. It’s incredibly rare, as people in the Iron Age didn’t use a lot of pottery, and must mean an Iron Age settlement is not too far away!
Keep on digging and keep letting us know what you find…I can’t wait to see what’s discovered next!”