News, Project News

Turning Back Time at Dinas Dinlle

Turning Back Time at Dinas Dinlle

New animation tells the climate story of this Gwynedd coastal village from the Ice Age to the Second World War

We’re excited to launch the CHERISH project’s animation on the changing landscape of Dinas Dinlle!

Over the last 6 years, archaeologists and geographers have been investigating Dinas Dinlle coastal fort and the Morfa Dinlle landscape to help reveal their hidden secrets.. CHERISH work started in 2017 at Dinas Dinlle coastal fort, an eroding late prehistoric settlement. Here archaeological work included new aerial and drone surveys, topographic and geophysical surveys to provide the most up-to-date and accurate information about the scheduled monument.

This work led to community excavations, undertaken on behalf of CHERISH, the National Trust and Cadw by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust with the aid of an army of volunteers. Two trenches explored the hillfort interior close to the eroding cliff-face and revealed prehistoric and Roman roundhouses buried deep beneath the sand. The star reveal was a large and impressive roundhouse, which was fully excavated and consolidated so that visitors can see visit this impressive structure today.  

The excavated round house at Dinas Dinlle taken in 2021
The excavated round house at Dinas Dinlle taken in 2021

During excavation it was found that the archaeology within the hillfort was buried under meters of sand, which allowed us to apply a special technique (Optical Stimulated Luminescence) to help us date when the sand blew in. Dates show that sand was an ever-present challenge to the occupants of the hillfort; evidence from the hillfort’s inner ditch shows that sand started collecting here from the Middle Iron Age onwards (around 250 BC). In the interior, sand accumulation over the large roundhouse suggests that by the start of the Medieval period around AD 1100 sand was left to accumulate over the site.

 

A still taken from the animation showing storms bringing the start of sand inundation at Dinas Dinlle
A still taken from the animation showing storms bringing the start of sand inundation at Dinas Dinlle

Around the hillfort, the CHERISH team extracted cores from the  wetlands and dated peat exposed at low tides on the foreshore to provide evidence for the evolution of the landscape and the vegetation history. This showed that around 7500 years ago, in the Mesolithic period, woodland stood where the beach is today;  sea-levels were around 5 metres lower than they are now.  The work also showed that there was once a tidal inlet behind the fort where the village and fields are today – a perfect location for a harbour for Iron Age and Roman boats!

A still taken from the animation of Dinas Dinlle landscape during the Second World War
A still taken from the animation of Dinas Dinlle landscape during the Second World War

Further afield the team explored and dated the development of Morfa Dinlle around modern-day Caernarfon Airport. Evidence suggests that Morfa Dinlle may have developed first as an island around 2000 years ago, during the time Dinas Dinlle hillfort was occupied. Later it was either cut off due to the tide or isolated permanently.

Location Map

Read More →

News, Project News

Dramatic new images bring the eroding prehistoric coastal forts of Wales to life

Dramatic new images bring the eroding prehistoric coastal forts of Wales to life

Dramatic new digital reconstructions of two of Wales’s most vulnerable prehistoric coastal forts have just been completed, vividly bringing to life the Iron Age and Roman defended villages in photo-realistic detail.

 

Dinas Dinlle coastal fort near Caernarfon in Gwynedd, and Caerfai coastal promontory fort near St David’s in Pembrokeshire, both owned by the National Trust, are threatened with coastal erosion and cliff loss. Increased storminess and intense rainfall, coupled with predicted rises in sea-level due to climate change, are steadily eroding the fragile archaeology at both these sites.

The EU-funded CHERISH Project has worked closely with a team of artists in Wessex Archaeology, and a range of stakeholders and experts, to accurately reconstruct both these sites in their heydays.

‘These images are among the most vivid recreations of prehistoric and Roman life that we have for Wales. They fire the imagination and will help the people of Wales imagine what life was like at the coast edge, 2000 years ago’.

Dinas Dinlle coastal fort has seen three years of excavation by the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, CHERISH, the National Trust and Cadw to rescue, and better-understand, the buried archaeology within the defences. Around 40 metres of the soft sand and gravel cliffs have been lost in the last century alone. A Romano-British roundhouse excavated close to the cliff edge has now been consolidated for public view. It will form an indicator of climate change as it steadily erodes over the cliff. One of the new reconstructions imagines this roundhouse in AD150, as the focus of a community with a female chief.

Reconstruction of the excavated and reconstructed Romano-British roundhouse within Dinas Dinlle coastal fort, Gwynedd
Reconstruction of the excavated and reconstructed Romano-British roundhouse within Dinas Dinlle coastal fort, Gwynedd (© Crown: CHERISH PROJECT 2022. Produced with EU funds through the Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme 2014-2023. All material made freely available through the Open Government Licence. Artwork by Wessex Archaeology. NPRN 95309/703001)

The wider reconstruction image shows Dinas Dinlle hillfort in Roman times, before coastal erosion cut away the western side. The Roman-period coastline, and an estuarine inlet behind the modern village, have been accurately shown following a comprehensive programme of coring and landscape reconstruction by Aberystwyth University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences. The hillfort interior, showing roundhouses, streets and yards, has been accurately reconstructed based on the evidence of a Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) survey.

Reconstruction of Dinas Dinlle coastal fort, Gwynedd, from the north-west.
Reconstruction of Dinas Dinlle coastal fort, Gwynedd, from the north-west. (© Crown: CHERISH PROJECT 2022. Produced with EU funds through the Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme 2014-2023. All material made freely available through the Open Government Licence. Artwork by Wessex Archaeology. NPRN 95309).

The reconstruction of Caerfai coastal promontory fort near St Davids in Pembrokeshire shows the defended settlement around 50BC. Strong defensive ramparts, deep ditches and towered gateways once protected this Iron Age village. Inside, evidence based upon surveys and excavations by the CHERISH Project and DigVentures, working with the National Trust and Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, shows a village of roundhouses and workshops with copper ore being mined from the sea cliffs. Offshore, locals in hidebound ‘currach-type’ boats row out to meet a Gallo-Roman trading ship.

Reconstruction image of Caerfai coastal fort, Pembrokeshire, from the north showing round houses and embankments
Reconstruction of Caerfai coastal fort, Pembrokeshire, from the north. (© Crown: CHERISH PROJECT 2022. Produced with EU funds through the Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme 2014-2023. All material made freely available through the Open Government Licence. Artwork by Wessex Archaeology. NPRN 305396).

Both coastal forts are owned by the National Trust and have seen several years of community excavation and landscape research by the EU-funded CHERISH Project combining the expertise of the Royal Commission and Aberystwyth University, working with the Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority, DigVentures and Cadw. The reconstructions are destined for new interpretation panels and online resources, to help visitors to the sites visualise the prehistoric and Roman past.

For further information contact: nicola.roberts@rcahmw.gov.uk or toby.driver@rcahmw.gov.uk

 

For permission to reproduce the images please contact: nmr.wales@rcahmw.gov.uk

High resolution copies of the images can be supplied.

Read More →

Blog Posts

Caerfai volunteer blog: Joanne Murphy

Caerfai volunteer blog: Joanne Murphy

Digging at Caerfai

My name is Jo, and by day I am a Community Park Ranger, but when I'm not supporting wildlife and conservation, I love supporting archaeology, history, and the preservation of our cultures and heritage.

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.

Jo excavating at Caerfai for the first time in 2021
Jo excavating at Caerfai for the first time in 2021

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. 

A wide angle image of people working on the excavation site at Caerfai on a sunny day
The 2022 trench, with the eroding edge denoted with orange fencing

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.

A woman in a red t-shirt crouches in a trench, smiling
Jo excavating a section through the inner rampart in 2022

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. 

I can't wait to get back out in the field, trowel in hand, and my mind open to the endless possibilities of this exciting site and others. Thank you, CHERISH and DigVentures.

A woman in a red t-shirt crouches at the edge of a trench, smiling at the camera and holding a toy puffin
Jo and Puffty reunited in 2022!

Location Map

Read More →

Blog Posts

End of Project Conference: Ambition, Delivery and Legacy

End of Project Conference: Ambition, Delivery and Legacy

Join us as we complete the CHERISH project with a final conference to disseminate and contextualise our research within the sector.

On Tuesday 21st March 2023 CHERISH will hold its final conference at the Printworks, Dublin Castle. We will present the final findings, products and lessons learnt from this 6-year, €4.9 million project. Most importantly, this will include launching our Good Practice Guidance: a how-to guide on the project’s “toolkit” for researching at-risk sites.

The day will include papers from members of the team, heritage professionals who have worked with the project, and those who have developed and refined the Toolkit. We will be joined by representatives from a wide variety of businesses, with Trade Stands to explore during refreshment breaks. Lunch and refreshments will be provided, and there will be a drinks reception in the evening 5-7pm as an opportunity to network.

The event is free and everyone is welcome:

Join us if you want to hear about the ways that we can approach coastal, intertidal and marine sites at risk from climate change. There will be chance to discuss the future of climate heritage, and how we as heritage professionals can engage with the risks posed by climate change.

If your company or organisation would like a trade stand at the event, please contact us directly at cherish@rcahmw.gov.uk.

Location Map

Read More →

Blog Posts

Caerfai volunteer blog: Eirlys Happs

Caerfai volunteer blog: Eirlys Happs

Caerfai excavation 2022

Hello, my name is Eirlys Happs, I’m 19 years old. I’m from Carmarthen in south Wales. Archaeology is a passion of mine.

 

After finishing college and deciding not to attend university yet, I fell into a slump many know well. During this time I began to rekindle my love for the Welsh language and missed speaking it as often as I used to. I attended a Welsh first language primary school despite being raised till then, singly in English. 

A young person standing in a trench, wearing a red shirt and white t-shirt, holding a trowel and hand shovel, with the sea and coast behind them.
Eirlys with their trowel and hand shovel, ready to dig!

Prior to this I had only ever had a passing interest in history and had never considered archaeology past the occasional episode of Time Team. However this set in motion the drive that led me to dig at Caerfai this year. I love celtic cultures, languages and art styles among many aspects of history. 

I love celtic cultures, languages and art styles among many aspects of history.

On my first day I dug in the rampart trench, a deep cross section of the ditch.

Part of four towering banks, which would’ve originally been not only bigger but more grand.

The magnificent earthworks were most likely used to deter invasion and emphasise the wealth or even religiousness of the area and its inhabitants.

A trench with several people working in it, on a green grassy headland with the blue sea behind
The main trench on a sunny day - a hive of activity!

I was delighted to speak with visitors and another cherish funded venturer in Welsh. Sites like this can make many feel very close to their predecessors, Welsh, English or otherwise. Sites like this can make many feel very close to their predecessors, Welsh, English or otherwise. 

Sites like this can make many feel very close to their predecessors, Welsh, English or otherwise. 

Throughout the week I worked in many other areas, but most notably to my aching muscles, backfilling trench 5. I was soon back in the rampart trench for my last two days of cleaning and planning.

Planning, the process of meticulous recording in the trench, was an utterly new skill to me despite having seen it done; it was delicate work to discern contexts (soil deposits) and then measure each one. 

A close up shot of a deep archaeological trench through a rampart
The rampart trench (with Puffty investigating)

While I was sad to leave this site, I gained so much from my week at Caerfai which I admit, I would never have been able to attend without cherish funding. 

I am vastly grateful to all those at cherish who gave a wonderful talk and this much valued opportunity; everyone at dig ventures for creating a welcoming, inclusive and informative environment; last but certainly not least to the Cardiff university students who were constantly warm and humorous despite their hard work. 

A young person in a red shirt holding a toy puffin on a hand shovel
Eirlys and Puffty in the main trench
Read More →
en_GBEN