… Got your attention?

One of the three round houses in the Iron Age village at St Fagan’s, in the old location

We spent today up to our calves in mud, splashing about in St Fagan’s’ old Iron Age village site. The site was experiencing structural problems with the largest round house, and the village is being rebuilt in a different area of the open-air museum, on top of the hill.

Before the museum replaces the Iron Age village with another exhibit or attraction, they allowed adult learners from Cardiff University  to “excavate” the site as if it had been an actual Iron Age village. Several adult learners, accompanied by Oliver Davis, Dave Wyatt, Alice Forward and other members of Cardiff University (including me, Cath Horler-Underwood and first year Undergraduate Hannah Parker – all of us historians and NO IDEA what we were doing!!) dug some trenches and uncovered the twelve post holes that had kept the roof in place. Well – I missed the trowel fun. Today we were plotting the post holes and taking measurements to draw cross-sections.

I learned quite a bit!

The wattle and daub of the round house had degraded differently on different sides, resulting in disitinctive archaeological remains. The wattle (sticks) had completely rotted away leaving only the clay and dung daub, resulting in the instability of the building and the sagging roof. This kind of exercise shows how actual Iron Age dwellings may have degraded and so on in the real world, which can help identifying the archaeological remains found in genuine digs. We were also shown how to identify different parts of a site, such as the iron works and the bread oven, and that these kinds of areas can help to reveal all kinds of things about the society in which context they were found.


Also – drawing things in the rain up to your calves in smelly clay-soil mud with the aid of string, nails, spirit levels and muddy measuring tape is fun!


Temporarily fun, true, but there was an element of giddy “I’M OUTSIDE!!!” joy about it for a moment or two there.



… Following on from my stint at the sharp end of the trowel, I shall be volunteering on the CAER Heritage Project for the next six weeks “doing” Public Engagement. Time Team has already done an episode on the Iron Age remains which aired earlier this year. What’s great about this project is not just the Iron Age remains themselves, but the fact that the community get to be involved. There’s no fee or charge of any kind, and if you’re free you can come up and have a look at the dig. There’ll be activities for adults and children, and we’re aiming to create a general “festival atmosphere”.


Aerial view of Caerau hillfort


There’ll be a sandbox excavation pit for children to “excavate” their own “finds”, you can write postcards to/from the Iron Age, design your own tribal logo, and a tribal logo colouring-in book for younger children. SHARE with Schools will be there with the Romans in Wales workshop, so you can handle genuine Roman artefacts.  Guerilla Archaeology [GA] will also be on hand, with any luck, delivering their own brand of mayhem and adding their educational expertise to the proceedings! Some may recognise the Shamanic Street Preachers – GA have done this at several music festivals like the Green Man Festival, and they will also be at Glastonbury this year.

Hope to see you all there!

Iron age silver coins
Iron age silver coins (Photo credit: portableantiquities)

Knowledge Exchange and the Arts & Humanities Workshop for academics condidering future public policy engagement 12/7 http://t.co/akt2hU1V6Y

— AHRC Press (@ahrcpress) June 19, 2013