Volunteer archaeologists dig deeper at city park

The dig involves 100 community volunteers - credit Vivian Thomas
The dig involves 100 community volunteers - credit Vivian Thomas

A mysterious ceremonial monument is set to be uncovered for the third phase of an archaeological dig in Trelai Park.

The Caerau and Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project, a partnership between Cardiff University, Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE), local schools, residents and heritage partners, has resumed its investigations half a mile from Caerau Hillfort, a heritage site of national significance where Neolithic, Iron Age, Roman and medieval origins have previously been discovered.

Trelai Park is a well-used location for sports teams and dog walkers. But buried underneath the grass near Cardiff West Community High School lies a well-preserved roundhouse dating back to 1500 BC - the earliest house in Cardiff.

The first dig two years ago revealed pieces of a stunning Bronze Age pot, which has since been painstakingly put back together. Last year’s dig focused on the floor of the building and towards the end, the team discovered a hint of a structure that might even pre-date this incredible find.

CAER Co-Director Dr Oliver Davis, based at the University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion, explains: "Just days before the conclusion of last year’s successful dig, we came across the remains of what we think is another structure lying beneath our Bronze Age roundhouse.

"We’re looking forward to revealing what it is in full this year so that we can understand its significance. It could be an earlier house, or even some kind of ritual monument, perhaps a timber circle where communities might gather at certain times of the year in the Early Bronze Age."

The dig involves 100 community volunteers.

Alice Clarke, a volunteer from Caerau who is involved with the Love Our Hillfort community group, has been helping to clean artefacts, such as small fragments of pottery or flint, as they are recovered from the ground.

"It’s delicate work," she said. "It really gets your heart going when you find something that could be important. It’s fascinating learning about the history that’s here. I love every single minute."

Fellow volunteer Sian Davies, a retired care worker from Llandaff North, added: "This is my third dig - I enjoy archaeology very much. I’m very fond of our group and it’s lovely working with the students. It’s a joy taking part in something like this; it’s hard to explain how fulfilling it is."

Scott Bees, a second year BSc archaeology student, who entered higher education via a Cardiff University pathway and has been analysing soil samples taken from the site, said: "It’s fantastic to be back at Trelai. We’re a week and-a-half in and we’ve already found lots of interesting evidence which will help build a picture of the people who lived here thousands of years ago."

The dad-of-five and former postman added: "It still feels like a dream, like I’m living somebody’s else’s life."

Watch Trelai Park dig film on YouTube

Lois Atkinson, CAER Centre Development officer for Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE), said: "This is a really exciting time, as we establish our wonderful CAER Centre as a hub for learning and opportunity."

Headteacher Mike Tate of Cardiff West Community High School, which is situated a short distance from the site, said: "I am really pleased with our ongoing partnership with Cardiff University and the CAER Heritage Project."

This latest activity coincides with an exhibition at Cardiff Museum in the city centre, which will be showcasing all the archaeological finds and inspired art works from CAER. It runs until September.

The dig takes place at Trelai Park until early July, with an open day on Saturday June 22, from 10am until 2pm. To get involved or via Facebook: @CAERHeritage

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