Amgueddfa Cymru holds almost 1 million items that tell us about life in Wales, from when people lived in caves 250,000 years ago, to the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Many of these objects are of huge financial value, others are simple and everyday, significant for the insights they give to the daily lives of the people who made them.
Discover what Wales was really like for our ancestors...
Tuesday 10th July
Contributed by CAROLINE
Today we were blessed with yet more sunshine- perhaps summer is here afterall!
Here’s an update from the trenches…
Trench 1: The largest trench
The Eastern half of trench one has been behaving itself quite well and a series of features have been revealed and their function is often evident. The majority of the features are postholes, some are shallow, while others are quite deep and have in some instances post packing intact. Some of these postholes and pits have had prehistoric pottery within them and are therefore prehistoric in date. However, not all contained dating evidence (pottery or coins etc) and so their date is unknown. It is difficult at present to determine what postholes are likely to be contemporary to each other, but hopefully when we have drawn a full plan of the trench we will see if the postholes form a pattern- rectangular, circular or otherwise. However, there are so many postholes that the pattern is so far highly confused as they seem to be from a series of structures dating from very different periods. As one person has commented, its like trying to do a puzzle without a picture. There is also quite a large curvilinear gulley which seems to have both been cut by a ditch on the one side, while the other appears to have cut an earlier ditch. While in the Western half of the trench the features are slightly more complicated. Again we seem to have two, maybe three gullies, one of which is very shallow. Two of these gullies may be at right angles to each other and one of which is cut by a later post hole. There is also a large rubble-filled ditch and another potential rubble-filled ditch about 2m away.
Trench 2: the L shaped trench
This trench is quite confusing. An extremely deep feature appears to be a natural geological hollow filled in with dumps of occupation debris from the settlement. A slot was dug down through the feature to the natural base and there appears to be a very substantial glacial fill at the base of this hollow. In one area this pit/natural hollow appears to have been cut by a later shallow pit, which was filled with a high concentration of ash and iron objects. There are also a series of postholes, but these do not seem to make up any discernable structures.
This trench was intended for exposing and excavating a sample of the enclosure ditch which appears to have been cut during the middle-late Iron Age. The ditch is approximately 1.3m deep and encloses a sizeable area – creating such a feature would have taken a lot of effort, manpower and time. The ditch appears to have then become naturally filled in with soil, washed or blown in from elsewhere. Then in the 2nd or 3rd century AD, it was recut, this time much shallower than before and therefore less substantial and not so impressive but again this may have formed a defensive function or possibly demonstrating the resources of the inhabitants. Alongside there was a large area of rubble which was initially believed to be the remnants of a bank( banks quite often accompany ditches), but has since proved to be otherwise. This rubble is instead derived from a series of rubble-filled features, a number of which have now been exposed. There are also 2 pit like features which are similar in character to each other. The southern most of these ditches has clearly been cut by the ditch, we can therefore say that the pit is earlier than the ditch.
Monday 9th July
Contributed by CAROLINE and pupils from LLANTWIT MAJOR COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL
Today good fortune was with us again with amazing sunshine. We had a visit from 14 year 7 school children and their teacher from Llantwit Major Comprehensive, the site visit took place between 9 until 1pm. The fieldtrip was not compulsory, instead the children volunteered to visit Llanmaes, I asked Kirsty whether her reasons for visiting Llanmaes was to skip lessons but instead Kirsty seemed genuinely interested in visiting the site and is very interested in history. Kirsty has visited the site before and so it is very encouraging that she wished to visit again, perhaps we have a budding archaeologis? Another student- Yegor seemed to be enjoying his first visit to the site.
The students were taught how to use a dumpy level, and using angles and height measurements helped us position canes to plot out the outline of the enclosure surrounding the site. This helps us and the school children to visually see its shape and grand scale. Again these students were from geography class and following their visit are expected to write up a small report about their visit, about what they enjoyed and learnt. Photographs and video footage accompany the students visit today. The children were expected to use the dumpy level to lay out correct angles and to determine the height of the staff and using tape measures.
One student Becky has had previous experience with archaeology having once been a member of a Young Archaeologists Club in Shetland, she was a member of the club for 2 years and made many new friends. Found pottery and recreated the pot where possible. Becky learnt about prehistory, and the work of an archaeologist. Two years a member. Made new friends at the club. Becky has very much enjoyed learning about archaeology at Llanmaes and at the club in Shetland which was held during school time. When at the club Becky considered becoming an archaeologist, but its been two years now since she left the archaeology club (because she moved house) and Becky has changed her career choice to being hopefully a beautician with her own business.
3 groups of year seven geography students have now visited us at Llanmaes, 2 in one day previously and today just one group, this is however the last. Next week follow up activities are planned at their school. These activities include art, poetry, music and creative writing. An afternoon of creative writing is planned following their visit to the site. The children are expected to write about what life may have been like for the inhabitants during the prehistoric and roman era. The Welsh poet of the year is coming in to help the children create poetry and a musician (a drummer) is visiting to carry out music workshops. These visits to the site are intended as a way of archaeology forging links with the community and giving the children an insight as to what it is like to be an archaeology student. The site visit has been very much cross curricular in nature, particularly for history and geography. This was intended mainly as a geography fieldtrip as the children are learning to appreciate why the inhabitants would have chosen to occupy this site. They will also look at aerial photographs to understand how archaeologists often find sites through cropmarks as well as see the settlement in its wider landscape setting in terms of nearby features such as brroks and drainage of the soil, relief, temperature and climate.
Sunday 8th July
Contributed by CAROLINE
Today’s open day was a great success, there were many visitors to the site, of all ages. It was good to see familiar faces of those who had visited in previous year(s). The visitors brought good fortune to the site- marvellous sunshine; something which has been greatly missed this year at Llanmaes!
We would like to thank those who cam to the site firstly for bringing us good weather and secondly for allowing us to share our excitement and interest of the past with a keen audience. We hope to see you again next year!
Friday 6th July
Contributed by CAROLINE and pupils of LLANTWIT MAJOR COMPREHENSIVE SCHOOL
The students visited the site as a geography field trip. However, it also it also covered subjects such as art, science, biology and history. Today the students were making clay huts replicating Iron Age Roundhouses. The students were shown around the site and shown post holes and a hearth forming a roundhouse as inspiration for their Iron Age roundhouses of clay.
Last year (then in year 6 of primary school) the same students visted the site, looking at the spoil heap and sieving for finds. Today they were learning more in depth about the structural elements of Iron Age roundhouses, particularly their entrances and the positioning of the hearth in the centre of the roundhouse.
The weather was particularly bad and a temporary hut was constructed using posts and tarpaulin. Unfortunately the archaeologists weren’t so lucky and had to continue digging in the rain while the comprehensive students made clay huts under shelter…
Site visit was 2 hours long, involved a site tour and creative tasks. The students from this year’s year 7 are hoping to come again when in year 8.
Thursday 5th July
Contributed by CAROLINE and the pupils of ARCHDEACON JOHN LEWIS PRIMARY SCHOOL
The children have been working on a School Performance entitled “Rainbow people.” Today they performed to the archaeologists while they were on tea break. It is a story which is both appropriate for today and for societies in the past. The story taught us that race and religion is irrelevant that people can still be friends despite these small differences. The story is appropriate in the context of Llanmaes, with evidence of both Roman and Iron Age occupation. The inhabitants of Llanmaes would have been a mixture of Romans and natives and potentially integrated, hopefully relatively peacefully.
The piece was performed twice, the first was narrated by the teacher and several of the school children.
The children chant while banging buckets with wooden spoons:
‘Green people are happy, blue people are sad
Green people are good, blue people are bad’
(and vice versa for the blue people)
To further strengthen the story’s connection with the excavation, the children played on buckets- a vital accessory for an archaeologist!
The green people and the blue people disliked each other and were ignorant of each others ways and believed themselves to be better than others. However, when a younger member of the green group was hurt and helped by a young blue person, and the favour was later returned, the two young people realised the idiocy of disliking those from the other group. The younger generation taught the rest of society that they are wrong and that all people are equal and worthy of friendship and co-operation.
The children then performed the story through the medium of dance accompanied by a musical score composed by a Welsh musician.
The children were asked some questions about their performance and the archaeology at Llanmaes.
"What was the performance trying to teach us and how is it relevant to the Llanmaes excavation?"
“The play teaches us that friendship and working together is important. The performance of the Rainbow People helps to show that.”
“The dig is like the play because the archaeologist work together, teamwork is important and they are unselfish like the people did at the end of the story.”
“The play is like the dig because the archaeologists found places in their heart that made them want to work together as a team and not to be an outsider.”
“The archaeologists like the Rainbow people came together as a group and formed bonds of friendship.”
“The Rainbow People didn’t like each other nor did the Romans and the Celts until they joined together and worked together. The Romans came to the Celts land and had to get along with one another.”
“The Celts and the Romans at first fought and bullied each other just and warred with one another, just as the Green and Blue people did.”
"What message would you give to the Celts and the Romans?"
“Don’t be enemies.”
“Don’t be nasty.”
“It doesn’t matter if you are a different colour or follow a different religion, we are all one and are part of the same human family.”
“No one is better than anyone else.”
“No one is really bad.”
“Wealth is unimportant, Even if your people’s possessions seem nicer than other peoples’ it doesn’t make you better than them. The Romans had better weapons and pottery but are not better than the Celts.”
"What did you think of the excavation? What did you like most about visiting an archaeological dig?"
“I was excited, especially because they find lots of things.”
“I was frightened at the beginning, it’s a strange new place. But then interested after having looked around and learning about what is really happening.”
“It’s interesting to see what they did years ago.”
“I liked the dogs”
"Would you like to be an archaeologist? Why?"
“I would like to be an archaeologist because I like the Romans”
Hywel“I’d like to be an archaeologist so that I could find out what happened before Jesus Christ.”
“In one way yes I’d like to be an archaeologist because you get to find out what happened before Jesus Christ, in another way no I would not like to be an archaeologist because you can hurt yourself.” (even though he plays rugby)
“You can hurt yourself if you’re an archaeologist because sharp objects are dangerous”
“I don’t want to be an archaeologist because it takes too long to dig and is very hard work”
“To be an archaeologist you need lots of patience”
“I’d like to be an archaeologist to be famous and in a magazine.”
“I’d like to find out what the Romans had.”
“The farmer is also famous because he has an archaeological dig on his farm.”
“I’d like to be an archaeologist because it is really exciting”
Monday 2nd July
Contributed by NICK COMERFORD
I came down to the site in October, so it was nice to come back to see the site opened up. With a little help I’m starting to make sense of the colour of the earth, the position of the post holes, etc. I’m looking forward to seeing what turns up?
Monday 2nd July
Contributed by SEAN HARRIS
Visiting Llanmaes this time last year was fascinating as always – took a few photos, soaked it all up, went home… With no idea what it would lead to. I’m sitting here, talking to Nick Comerford, teacher from Aberdare School with whom I made the film Dadeni, a cauldron extravaganza based on finds from Llanmaes – sharks tooth, coin and so on. This time last year none of these had been unearthed. What will come from this years dig I wonder?
Monday 2nd July
Contributed by IWAN BALA
It was remarkable to come here, having heard stories about this place, and imagined other stories too. To stand on the floor that was stood on so long ago. Like Sean Harris, I am inspired to do some work based on this. Not sure what yet. Wedi mwynhau yn ddirfawr. 01/07/07
Friday 29 June
Contributed by ANNA
Only having come to Llanmaes for a week, today is my final day – and the week ends as it began, with everyone rained off site. But we had fair weather through the middle of the week, and good progress was made in the trenches. A mixture of pre-Roman and Roman finds in Trench 1 suggests that the site was occupied over a long period, intersecting features indicating that the (potential) settlement was built and re-built over the same spot. There are many post-holes in Trench 1, making an Iron Age settlement likely, although its shape (round or rectangular) has not yet been determined.
I have spent the week working on a large post-hole which, unexpectedly, developed into a second post-hole, almost certainly of different date. As the fill continued further and further back below the top soil, it felt at times as though I would be chasing this feature endlessly across the trench – but it was a nice change to be taken by surprise by a feature, and exciting to realise that the two intersecting post-holes might tell us something about different periods of occupation on the site.
A week is not really long enough to spend on as rich a site as Llanmaes, where new possibilities seem to emerge every day. As well as the potential Iron Age settlement, there is also possible evidence of a furnace, a hearth and a Roman building: plenty for everyone to mull over whilst skulking in the cabins and barns, keeping an eye on the rain.
Thursday 28 June
Contributed by EMILY
Hello Archaeology fans!
Llanmaes has given us an unexpectedly sunny day today, with our courageous team of archaeologists only getting rained on once, and the grand total of wet socks at a paltry 4 from the wet sieving brigade.
Today I have been working in a strip of trench one, and have consequently seen very little of the rest of the goings on in the site.
I can however assure you that trench one has seen enough excitement for the whole of Llanmaes with a host of interesting finds coming to light. Among these finds came a shard of what appears to be Roman glass, which Nick has speculated may have originated from a window pane, leading to a somewhat enthusiastic, and yet to be proved ‘We have a house here’. More on that another day perhaps.
Another exiting find was found by the intrepid archaeologist Andy, who braved the adversity of forgetting his glasses to bring us a beautiful bucket handle. In order to quell the pre-history/Roman debate this find created, pacifists among us have suggested that we are dealing with pre-historic peoples coexisting happily with Romans in a somewhat utopic society. Our current ‘special person’ on site, Ian, added that within this society they may have been consuming donkeys, based on a rather large bone found in the lower right hand side of the trench. This with many other things in this blog entry, is yet to be established as a fact.
For my part, myself and Rob have been uncovering some interesting features in the lower right corner of the trench. Rubble fill may prove to be a surface or a dump of some description, whilst finds from the area have included a Roman coin, Iron nails and a number of animal bones. Tomorrow we hope to expand outwards from the feature that may be a surface in hopes of discovering its true purpose, but for now we are left to speculate on a number of features throughout the trench and site.