Dig Deep into Wales’s past at the Festival of Archaeology

Wednesday 10 July 2013

Dig deep and uncover the stories of Wales’s past this summer at the Festival of Archaeology, which takes place from 13 – 28 July 2013.

Dig deep into Wales’s past at the Festival of Archaeology

Dig deep into Wales’s past at the Festival of Archaeology

Cadw, the Welsh Government’s historic environment service, together with its partner organisations, is running a fortnight long series of special events across Wales as part of the Festival of Archaeology, ranging from military displays, excavation open days, heritage arts and crafts, Victorian expeditions and medieval mystery days.

The Festival, now in its 23rd year, is coordinated by the Council for British Archaeology (CBA), and is a great opportunity for a wide range of visitors, from beginners to enthusiasts, to discover their inner archaeologists and meet the experts behind some of Wales’s most fascinating archeological sites.

John Griffiths, Minister for Culture and Sport, explains why archaeology is such an important part of Wales’s rich history: 'Archaeology is one of the reasons people visit Wales not just once, but again and again. Archaeology is often thought of as being single period and old – a medieval castle or an ancient burial chamber. But archaeology doesn’t have to be ancient.

There are many stories to be uncovered at Cadw sites, some of them more recent than we might have expected. For example, I’m fascinated that Lamphey Bishop’s Palace, despite on the face of it to be a medieval splendor, was in fact also a base for the American troops prior to the Normandy landing in World War II.

'The UK-wide Archaeology Festival showcases some of the very best of British archaeology, and Cadw is delighted to once-again participate in the fortnight-long festival with a range of hands-on, family friendly events and encourage more people to get involved in their local heritage.' 

The Festival launches with a Roman Invasion at Segontium Roman Fort in Caernarfon on Saturday 13 and Sunday 14 July. Segontium was the military and administrative centre of North Wales throughout the Roman occupation. It controlled access to the rich fertile lands of Mona and was part of a series of forts linked by a strategic road network and supported by a legionary base at Chester. It is unique in Wales as its very important strategic position meant that it was occupied for over 300 years, later providing defence against Irish raiders and pirates.

The fort accommodated a regiment of up to 1000 auxiliary infantry but a civilian settlement also grew up around the fort. The Roman Invasion Festival, which is being funded through Cadw Heritage Tourism Fund, which is backed by European funding through Welsh Government, is back, bigger and better. Visitors will be welcomed with a fun, family-friendly weekend of living history events including military displays, hands on activities, guided tours, live battles and authentic Roman cooking smells.

For those feeling active, the Festival of Archaeology also offers guided walks and the opportunity to explore historic landscapes, visit excavations and delve into archives. For the creative types, visitors can try their hand at an ancient craft interpreting history through art at a number of Cadw sites across the country.

Those who take part in the reconstruction of a Victorian-era excavation at Cardiff’s much-loved Castell Coch on 22, 23 and 24 July, may be surprised to uncover and record items that belonged to the castle’s medieval occupants. Castell Coch is a Victorian re-build in its upper levels, whilst being on medieval lower levels and foundations.  Before this re-build took place a series of archaeological excavations were conducted by a G.T. Clark, whose work was published in 1850. Visitors can uncover with their own hands a range of medieval treasures, learn to record the items in their archeological context, and practice excavation methods which are still used today.

The Festival culminates on Saturday 27 and Sunday 28 July at Lamphey Bishop’s Palace, which will host 40s and Forces. Lamphey Bishop’s Palace is renowned for its links to St Davids and architectural resonance with the Bishop’s Palace, however this event will allow visitors to travel back to a more recent time in history.

South Pembrokeshire, and Lamphey itself, played host to troops in training for the Normandy Landings.  Through 40s and Forces, Cadw, in partnership with the local community, will tell this more recent part of the site’s story in a fun and interactive way.  Visitors will have the opportunity to meet GIs and the Women’s Land army, and there will be hands-on activities, talks and displays which are suitable for all the family.

The Festival of Archaeology is a UK-wide annual extravaganza of heritage events, showcasing the very best of British archaeology. Cadw will be hosting events at 12 of its iconic sites, bringing to life ancient and modern archaeology and offering locals and visitors the opportunity to get hands-on with their local history.

Cadw is the Welsh Government's historic environment service working for an accessible and well-protected historic environment.

Look further and you will see that archaeology isn’t just a medieval castle, or a stone-age burial chamber, some archaeological sites are much more modern that we might expect:  

The Iron Age fort of Garn Fawr in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Owned in part by the National Trust, this splendid fortress is around 2500 years old. Ramparts of stone and earth encircle a commanding hilltop, small indentations in the interior mark where huts and buildings used to stand. 

This timeless prehistoric site towers over the sea, but look carefully, and at the summit of Garn Fawr is a small, concrete building with a set of steps leading up to it– a lookout post, dating back to the First World War.  The concrete shed at the top of the monument is as much a part of the history of Garn Fawr as is the Iron Age stonework.

Garn Fawr is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, meaning it has legal protection, and this legal protection extends to its World War I remains as well as the earlier period.

World War practice trenches – at Bodelwyddan in North Wales and at Penally in South Wales

Remains from the First World War are not only protected as part of other monuments, but also in their own right. Wales has two sets of legally protected practice trenches – at Bodelwyddan in North Wales and at Penally in South Wales.

These practice trenches were dug by recruits during World War I, in order to teach them the skills of trench construction, but also to build teamwork and physical fitness.

These two sets left in Wales are poignant reminders of the men – and boys – who would soon be building these trenches across Europe and under very different circumstances.

Cold War underground monitoring post, Llananno, Powys

Wales has other even more modern archaeology, too. Amongst the most recently protected monuments are those military sites surviving from the Cold War era, when Wales was involved in that headlong technological rush that characterised the arms race. 

A well preserved example at Llananno, Powys has been scheduled as a monument of national importance. It was opened in 1960 and closed with all the other remaining posts in late 1991.

Although closed only twenty-one years ago, it was protected for its potential to enhance our knowledge of the development of British Cold War defence systems and because the successful development of a national network of underground monitoring posts represents one of the chief British technological achievements during the Cold War period.

Click here for more information about the Cadw Festival of Archaeology events www.cadw.wales.gov.uk/events