Together, we’ll help uncover the hidden history under the gardens of Caerau and Ely!

Ever fancied being a time traveller?  

Caerau and Ely have an amazing history stretching back over 6,000 years; from the Stone Age to the Iron Age, from the Romans to World War Two.

Last summer, with the UK on lockdown, none of us could get out and about much, so we invited community members to join us on an exploration of the past all from the comfort of their own homes.

CAER Big Dig and CAER Cupboard Archaeology

If you have a garden, we would still like you to be part of CAER Big Dig by undertaking your very own archaeological excavation in your back yard. This will involve digging a small 1 square metre archaeological test pit, recording what you discover and sharing your findings with archaeologists from Cardiff University and the wider community.

Don’t have a garden or not able to dig? No problem! You can take a journey of exploration into your home as part of CAER Cupboard Archaeology.

We would love to hear about the heritage of Ely and Caerau through the items that you have in the community. Every item tells a story and helps us to piece together the modern history of the area. Do you have an object in your house that has a story to tell?

Together, we’ll help uncover the hidden history under the gardens of Caerau and Ely!

CAER Big Dig and CAER Cupboard Archaeology ran over the course of the week starting 6th July 2020, but it is not too late to do your own excavation! Please download the resources and do the dig in your own time.

Digging a Test Pit

The test pit mini-digs are just 1 m square so create minimal mess and can be fitted in pretty much anywhere.

Digging a test pit is straightforward. Watch our ‘How to dig a test pit’ film and/or download our ‘How to dig an Archaeological Test Pit: Step-by-Step Guide’ below

How to dig a test pit
  • Excavation of the test pits is entirely by hand (i.e. no machinery is used) and takes just 1 or 2 days.
  • Turf is removed and replaced in neat squares
  • Soil is excavated in 20 cm layers down to a maximum of 60 cm
  • Soil is sieved to make sure no finds are missed.
  • The limited amount of spoil created is deposited onto tarpaulins, preventing any damage to lawns.
  • When excavation is completed, test pits are back-filled, with any turf originally present replaced neatly. The site should be almost invisible within a few weeks.

What might you find?

People have been living in Caerau and Ely for over 6,000 years so its possible you might find fragments of the stone tools used by our community’s earliest inhabitants through to sweet wrappers dropped in the 21st century. Everything you find will help to reconstruct the story of the place you live over hundreds and thousands of years. Watch our ‘What you might find’ film here (Link) to learn about the sorts of things you might discover in your test pit.

We know that there is a big Iron Age hillfort in Caerau and a Roman villa in Trelai Park, but surprisingly little is known about the places in between (because archaeologists don’t normally get the chance to dig in them!). Information from these test pit mini-digs will be really new and help chart how the area evolved from the Stone Age to modern times. The more test pits we do, the more we’ll find out. It’s a bit like a jigsaw puzzle – the more pieces you can see, the better you can see the picture.

Have a look at our video from CAER archaeologist Oliver Davies to find out more about what can be discovered in your own back yard

What you might find

What tools do I need?

You’ll need some basic equipment to get started. Some of this is included in your ‘CAER Big Dig Pack’, while other items you might already have. If you need any items,  we can supply them and deliver them safely to your door at NO CHARGE (Caerau and Ely residents only, with social distancing implemented and with all delivered equipment fully disinfected prior to delivery) – simply let us know what you need by signing up to the CAER Big Dig here

Equipment that is included in your CAER Big Dig Pack (Caerau and Ely residents only)

  • Step-by-step Guide and Recording Form
  • Health and Safety Guide and Declaration
  • 3 x clear plastic finds bags
  • 1 x permanent marker pen
  • 1 x garden seed tray (for finds)
  • 1 x toothbrush (for washing finds)

Other equipment you will need – let us know what items below you might need to be delivered (Caerau and Ely residents only)

  • 1 x hand-tape measure
  • 1 x spade
  • 1 x hand shovel
  • 1 x trowel (4 inch pointing trowel)
  • 1 x bucket
  • 1 x hand sieve (14 inch diameter, ¼ inch mesh)
  • 1 x tarpaulin (at least 2 m by 2 m)
  • String (at least 5 m)
  • 4 x six inch nails

Identifying and recording finds

The identification and recording of your finds is probably the most important step. We’d love to see photographs of your finds. Learn how to take a photograph of you finds by watching our ‘How to take a photograph of your finds’ film here

How to photograph finds

Once you’ve taken a photo, you can email them to us at or upload them to our Facebook page ( where the CAER Team archaeologists will help you identify and research what you’ve found.

‘Ask an Archaeologist’ online Zoom chats will be happening during the week of 6th-11th July, if you’d like to talk about what you’ve found or see what other “Big Diggers” have found, please email us at to sign up for an ‘Ask an Archaeologist’ session.

What will happen with my finds?

When you have completed your dig and logged your finds, we’d love to know what you’ve discovered. Email to let us know when you’ve finished and we can pop round to pick up your finds bags and Recording Form (see step-by-step guide) we’ll return them to you with any additional information we may have found out about them.

CAER Cupboard Archaeology

Archaeology might be thought of as ‘anything made or used by people that is buried’ … so what’s buried under your bed, or in your cupboards and drawers? We want you to think about the story behind these objects, what are they for? What memories do they bring back, how did they come into your family?

Have a look at some of the objects below that are part of The Museum of Cardiff’s collection.

The objects could be:

  • Things that have been kept in drawers for years
  • Old vinyl records
  • Old photographs
  • Old tools or trinkets
  • The oldest piece of clothing that you have in your wardrobe/linen cabinet etc
  • Things stored under a bed and forgotten about!

Download our CAER Cupboard Archaeology Instructions and worksheet below to learn all about how to go about becoming an archaeologist in your own home!

Making a virtual museum

We are aiming to feature a selection of your objects from CAER Big Dig and CAER Cupboard Archaeology both in a virtual exhibition and also in a special display at the new CAER Community Heritage Centre on Church Road, Caerau (due to be opened in early 2021)

Please let us know if you are willing to lend/donate an object for display, or if you would like us to display your object as a photo alongside its story, by emailing us at


CAER Heritage is a collaboration between ACE, Cardiff University, local schools, residents and many others. Its aim is to explore the history and archaeology of Caerau Hillfort and the surrounding area, helping to connect wider communities with their heritage and develop educational and new-life opportunities.


ACE – Action in Caerau and Ely
Our Place: Dusty Forge
460 Cowbridge Road West

02920 00 31 32

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