Caerfai volunteer blog: Joanne Murphy
Digging at Caerfai
I was lucky enough to join the CHERISH funded dig at Caerfai in 2021. This Iron Age promontory site at Penpleidiau is surrounded by sea on 3 sides and protected on the north with not one but 4 (yes, 4!) rampart and ditch structures. Even though this site may seem protected, climate change and its proximity to the sea is causing it to erode away. As a first investigation into the site, led by DigVentures, none of us really knew what to expect. What we found was spectacular and only raised more questions. Questions that would have to wait to be answered as time ran out and the trenches were back filled.
In 2022, with the dig being crowdfunded by DigVentures, CHERISH provided the wonderful opportunity of field school places. This was to help individuals develop their archaeological skills and understanding with the aim to capture as much information as possible before more of the site is lost. I was lucky enough to have one of these field school placements, and on returning to the site, the first thing I noticed was the amount of erosion that had taken place in one year. Around half a metre had fallen off the Western side.
The second to note was that this year was bigger, better, and bolder. A wider area dug meant a wider picture, and we certainly added to the story of Caerfai revealing several round houses, post holes and hearths, unearthing whett stones, spindle whorls and the most exciting, part of a crucible for smelting ore (which I found!). The most puzzling discovery of all, a beautiful stepped structure hiding at the bottom of one of the rampart ditches, which seemed to continue the length of the ditch. That’s one of many new theories and questions raised that will have to wait for the next dig.
All in all, I not only got to practice skills taught in previous years but also developed new skills in geophysics, sampling, and recording. The opportunity provided by CHERISH has given me the confidence to join more digs and utilise everything learnt at Caerfai.