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Digging Caerau

25 June 2013

Community Discovers Hidden Hillfort in Cardiff

The Caerau And Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project

The Caerau And Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project


Between 24th June-19th July 2013 community members and schoolchildren from west Cardiff will be working with professional archaeologists to uncover the secrets of one of Wales’ most significant yet little known historical sites, Caerau Hillfort in the second phase of the Caerau And Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project.  

The CAER Heritage Project’s objective is to help the people of Caerau and Ely connect with this site’s fascinating past and make it relevant to the present. From the outset the project’s key objectives have been to put local people at the heart of the archaeological research, to develop educational opportunities and to challenge stigmas and unfounded stereotypes ascribed to this part of Cardiff. It is hoped this will attract wider attention and bring visitors to one of Wales’ as yet hidden treasures.

The Caerau And Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project is a collaborative project between Cardiff University, Action in Caerau & Ely (ACE), local schools and local residents.

Over the summer, the CAER Heritage project is bringing together community members and pupils from local schools (Glyn Derw High, Fitzalan, Mary Immaculate High) in a journey of archaeological discovery. Working with professionals from Cardiff University, participants will undertake a large excavation at the site; digging down to find out about their rich heritage while learning new skills and building community confidence and cohesion in an area of Cardiff that is experiencing significant challenges.

Dr Dave Wyatt, co-director of the project explains: ‘The project is based around Caerau Iron Age hillfort, and seeks to engage local people and school children in their shared history and help create new opportunities,  through a range of educational and creative opportunities including school projects, adult education courses and informal learning through community and experimental archaeology, artwork and heritage trail design and creation'.

He adds: ‘Today Ely and Caerau are suburbs of Wales’ capital city which face significant social and economic problems. Wind back 2000 years, before the advent of the Roman invasions in AD74, and Caerau – with its imposing hillfort - was the major power centre for the entire Cardiff region. History marks it as one of the largest and most impressive hillforts in Wales, but its significance is as yet little recognised locally, or nationally, and we hope we can change this for good.’  

Dave Horton, Community Development Co-ordinator, ACE (Action in Caerau & Ely) explains the potential impact for the project in the community:
‘There is a thriving interest in local history amongst many members of the Ely & Caerau community, so we're all very excited about the activities that will take place over the next few weeks. ACE is very pleased to be a part of the CAER Heritage Project, with all the opportunities it affords for learning and enjoyment. More than this, though, we see the project as an opportunity to celebrate an exciting and vibrant area of the city that has been unfairly stigmatised over the years.’

In an exciting experimental archaeology twist, following on from excavating their Iron Age past, local people will use the knowledge they gain to help to construct a brand new Iron Age village at the National History Museum St Fagans just 1.5 miles away from the Caerau hillfort site.


THE IRON AGE DIG:  24th June -19th July [open every day of the week]
A major community excavation will take place on Caerau hillfort involving local residents and schoolchildren as well as academics and undergraduates from Cardiff University. Local people will be involved in all aspects of the dig including hands-on excavation, finds processing, drawing and planning.

The excavation will be open every day of the week and there will be a range of other community engagement activities taking place on site alongside it including making Iron Age pots, designing tribal logos, postcards to the Iron Age and more. Families and all ages are welcome!   

THE IRON AGE FEAST: Saturday 6th July [4pm]
At the end of the afternoon on this dig day there will be a celebratory Iron Age hog roast with an invitation to local residents as well as politicians and hopefully celebrities to come up and take part in some Iron age feasting to celebrate their heritage.

THE IRON AGE RITUAL Date TBA (after 6th July)
Following the great hog feast, the bones of the beast will be taken to St Fagans where local residents and archaeologists will reconstruct a colourful pre-historic ritual and bury the bones of the feast in a votive pit underneath the foundations of the NEW Iron Age village which they will be helping to construct at St Fagans. This act will mirror the ritual archaeologists believe pre-historic people did before constructing a new settlement.

THE ELY FESTIVAL: Saturday 13th July 2013
The CAER project will participate in the vibrant Ely Festival, attended by thousands, where there will be opportunities for all to learn about the findings to date and to get involved in heritage-themed community art and the new heritage trail design.

Community residents and school children who have participated in the dig will help to build a new Iron Age village at St Fagans alongside heritage professionals

For more information contact:
Laura Henderson, Cardiff School of History, Archaeology & Religion, Cardiff University

Phone: 029 2087 6169
Twitter: @cardiffshare

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