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.
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.
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.
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.
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.