Amgueddfa Cymru — National Museum Wales


A big day in the Celtic Village

Steve Burrow, 1 August 2009

Festival of British Archaeology 2009

This weekend is the grand finale of the Festival events, and it started dreadfully. Torrential rain all night and no let-up until eleven o’clock, but much happened before then.

First thing in the morning The Vicus, anamazing Iron Age / Roman re-enactment group, arrived in force and took over our Celtic Village and the grounds around it. Our wood shelter became an armoury, the roundhouses were taken over for cooking and crafts, and outside the village our old furnace was fired up and used to smelt iron ore.

Things really got under way once the rain had cleared and the ground started to dry. Then it was a continuous stream of visitors for the rest of the day.

For me the highlights were:

- the trimmed down combat display where the Vicus’s British warriors and Roman soldiers showed off their equipment and demonstrated the various merits of a range of spears. It was a trimmed down display because the rain had left things too wet underfoot for full-scale combat. But the forecast is good for the rest of the weekend, so tomorrow’s performance should be the full extravaganza.

- watching the bloom come out of the furnace around 4:30. The Vicus’s blacksmith has yet to pass judgement on the results, but they certainly looked pretty good. And when one considers that things only really got started around midday they seemed almost miraculous.

So tomorrow is the big one. In the Celtic Village we have a repeat of all of the above  (with bronze casting substituted for iron smelting), and the festival will be brought to a show-stopping conclusion with a reenactment of a Roman cremation cemetery. Fingers crossed the weather stays with us.

British warrior
A British warrior dresses for battle in the afternoon display by The Vicus.
British warrior
And the warrior fully-dressed and on display.
Roman soldier
A Roman soldier - natural enemy of the British warrior seen above.
A view of the armoury - back at the Celtic Village.
Iron smelting
Starting up the furnace for the iron smelt.
Furnace and flames
Not far to go...

After several hours of bellowing, the furnace is hot enough and things begin to happen.
Bloom from furnace

Part of the bloom is extracted from the furnace. The end of a great day.

Look above: look within

Steve Burrow, 30 July 2009

Festival of British Archaeology 2009

On Wednesday and Thursday this week (29th and 30th July) Sue Fielding and Geoff Ward from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales demonstrated building recording at St Fagans. Thanks to them, visitors had the chance to record a 500 year old house, Hendre’r Ywydd Uchaf, which once stood near Ruthin in the Vale of Clwyd.

I couldn't get to the event myself,  but Adam Gwilt who helped organise things sent in this report.


"Geoff has been getting people to look more carefully at the way the house was built and showing young and old alike how to measure and draw the exposed timbers of a wall partition inside the house.

Sue has been enlisting the help of people, using the ‘total station’ survey equipment. Using a laser beam to record the dimensions and details of one of the rooms, a 3D drawing of the room has grown in front of our eyes on the laptop computer screen. 

On Wednesday, the stream of people was slow but constant, though the torrential rain all day affected the numbers of visitors. After early showers on Thursday, the much improved weather brought people to us in significant numbers, at times queuing to enter the house to see what was going on! 

We used a red flag banner to let visitors know that something was going on in this house in the large museum grounds, while the additional building trail developed for the Festival has helped some children to hunt for evidence relating to the long use of this building.

The event was a great success with Sue commenting: ‘Many children have really enjoyed using our new survey equipment to generate an immediate visual and digital drawing of this historic house. I was really pleased that the Royal Commission was asked to contribute to the Festival events hosted by the national museum.’ "

The growing queue beside the big red banner that advertised the event.
Sue demonstrating the total station.
Geoff introducing some visitors to building survey.
A chance to look at some of the Royal Commission's older survey equipment.

The magic flute

Steve Burrow, 29 July 2009

Festival of British Archaeology 2009

A few photos from last weekend's "Magic flute" event in which Gareth Riseborough tried to make replicas of a medieval and a possible Neolithic flute.

He was successful in both projects. The medieval flute plays very well and looks fantastic. The Neolithic whistle looks the piece, but is very difficult to play - no fault of Gareth's there, the reason he was trying to replicate the original was to see whether it was actually a whistle, or whether it might have been simply a dog-chewed bone.

Making a bone flute
Gareth at work on the bone flutes in the Celtic Village.
The replica flutes
The finished flutes.

The lower of the two is Gareth's replica of the possible Neolithic flute from Penywyrlod.

The topmost one is his replica of the White Castle medieval flute.
Sally and whistle
Sally getting a note from the replica Penywyrlod whistle.

I haven't had the chance to catch up with her to see whether she thought this would actually have been a viable instrument.

Sally conjuring colours

Steve Burrow, 29 July 2009

Festival of British Archaeology 2009

More photos from finished events... This time Sally demonstrating dyeing with natural dyes.

The orange comes from madder, the yellow from weld, blue from woad, and green is a mix of woad and weld.

Dyeing wool
Sally at work in the roundhouse, dyeing wool.
Natural dyes
Just one of the amazing colours that Sally produced during the course of the day. All from natural dyes.
Colourful wool
The full range of colours.
Drop spinning
Sally demonstrating drop spinning.

Colourful Pasts

Ian Daniel, 28 July 2009

Thanks to everyone who joined us last weekend and took part in the activities at the Celtic Village and St Teilo’s Church. My roundhouse has never been so colourful! The walls look amazing, full of your wonderful artwork. Many of you also joined Tracey and Nia in St Teilo’s Church and had a go at re-creating the wall paintings there. If you missed the activities then remember the Festival of British Archaeology continues here this weekend, 1-2 August.