Skip to main content

Archaeologists return to Hidden Hillfort for excavations of the city’s past

26 June 2019

Aerial view of Ely area

Cardiff’s prehistoric origins will be uncovered this summer during an archaeological dig of Caerau Hillfort.

From 24 June to 19 July, archaeologists from Cardiff University are teaming up with local development organisation Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE), local schools and residents for a season of excavation.

Nestled within the housing estates of Caerau and Ely in western Cardiff, Caerau Hillfort is one of the largest and most impressive hillforts in south-east Wales. Despite this, many people are still unaware that it even exists since much of the structure is hidden under woodland.

The archaeologists are focussing on the hillfort’s ramparts, or defensive walls, in order to understand when and how they were built.  Three concentric ramparts stretch around the hillfort for around one kilometre and their construction represents a remarkable prehistoric engineering feat.

“Before the Romans conquered this part of Wales, Caerau Hillfort was a thriving settlement home to around 200 people. In many ways it’s the prehistoric origin of Cardiff itself,” said the project’s Archaeological Director Dr Oliver Davis, who is based at the University’s School of History, Archaeology and Religion.

This year’s dig follows on from successful community excavations in 2013, 2014 and 2015, which revealed exciting Neolithic, Iron Age and Medieval remains at the site.

It also marks the launch of the National Lottery Heritage-funded project, ‘The Hidden Hillfort’, which will see the area transformed into a community-generated attraction. Action in Caerau and Ely has received £829,000 for the work. Cardiff University is an active partner in the project, the total cost of which exceeds £1.6m; other significant support has been given to ACE by First Campus, Wales and West Housing, Cardiff Archaeological Society and the Moondance Foundation.

Working with project partners including the Cardiff Story Museum and Amgueddfa Cymru – the National Museum of Wales, it aims to increase visitor numbers to the area by 50% over the next three years. Plans include the redevelopment of the old Gospel Hall on Church Road into a Hidden Hillfort Heritage Centre as well as a series of accessible heritage trails, a playground and gardens.

ACE Project Manager Dave Horton said: “The Hidden Hillfort project is all about revealing this incredible place to the residents of Cardiff and beyond and there seems no better way to do this than to show off its wonderful ramparts.”

To celebrate the start of the project, a community celebration is being held there on Saturday 29 June, from 10am to 3pm, with stalls, activities and food. Everyone is welcome to attend.

The project warmly invites people to visit and get involved in this year’s excavation. To express an interest in taking part, call: 02920 003132 or email: /

Share this story

The School allows the brightest and best to explore and share their passion for past societies and religious beliefs, from prehistory to the present day.