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Magical Welsh Island's Past Revealed

8 April 2014

The Skomer Island Project team (L-R), Dr Oliver Davis (Cardiff University), Louise Barker (RCAHMW), Dr Bob Johnston (University of Sheffield), Dr Toby Driver (RCAHMW)

The Skomer Island Project team (L-R), Dr Oliver Davis (Cardiff University), Louise Barker (RCAHMW), Dr Bob Johnston (University of Sheffield), Dr Toby Driver (RCAHMW)

Cardiff University Archaeology involved in First Modern Excavation on Skomer Island

A collaborative project between the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales, Cardiff University and Sheffield University has recently undertaken the first modern excavation on Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire.

Skomer is a heavily protected landscape famous for its puffins and other breeding seabirds, but it is also home to some of the best preserved prehistoric field systems and hut settlements anywhere in Britain. In the 1980s, Professor John Evans of Cardiff University undertook a detailed archaeological survey of the surviving remains, but recent aerial photographic and LiDAR survey work by the Royal Commission has shown the remains to be more complex than ever before imagined.

The field systems and settlements have always been presumed to be prehistoric or Romano-British, but without excavation no dating evidence has ever been recovered. The team from the RCAHMW, Cardiff University and Sheffield University have been undertaking geophysical and ground survey on the island since 2011 and this year undertook a small excavation of a ‘burnt mound’ that had built up against the wall of one of the stone-built roundhouses.  Beneath a metre of burnt, fire-cracked, stone (presumably pot-boilers for heating water for cooking) the team identified a buried soil surface that contained charcoal, flint flakes, animal teeth and pottery sherds.

Cardiff University’s Dr Oliver Davis explains: “The finds will change the way we think about Skomer – the charcoal will hopefully provide radiocarbon dates that will offer the first ever dates for the settlement on the island, while the pottery, animal teeth and flints will allow us to begin to build a much better picture of life on the island in the distant past”.