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Where have I been?

September 4, 2011

I’ve been busy. Ultra busy.

It all kicked off when the Council for British Archaeology launched its Day of Archaeology to take place on 29th of July 2011. It ended up jam packed with 400 archaeologists from all over the world documenting what they did on that particular day. Well, most of them anyway. Some were a little sneaky and just documented what they did as their everyday job. Others, like myself, actually wrote what we did on the day.

I posted an introduction about what I was going to attempt a week or so before the day and this was published online on the 29th. It did not go exactly to plan but as you can see lessons were learned and they will hold me in good stead for the future. So that was that, I enjoyed it, and will certainly do it again if I have the free time to take part next year.

While organising that something else popped up that I just couldn’t leave alone although what I wanted to do and what I actually ended up doing were quite different. As part of The Festival of Archaeology I visited Caerwent’s military base to be shown around by representives from CADW.

CADW's tours proved very popular

 It turned out to be an interesting day for a number of reasons. Firstly, the buildings hastily erected during the build up to World War II are quite rapidly disappearing. Apparently, a corps of the British Army know as the SAS require buildings to practise demolition on. Seeing as there were an abundance of these at Caerwent it seemed logical that they could be blown up from time to time. Now it is all well and good blowing these things up (probably for fun) but it means that unless they have been recorded there is not much left after demolition to record. CADW, thankfully, have recognised this and have duly scheduled most of the remaining buildings at Caerwent’s base to save them for future generations. And it has to be said good on them for doing so.

Saved for future generations not involving members of the SAS

The second reason why Caerwent was interesting is that I happened to meet the president of Cardiff University Archaeological Society. We had already chatted through Twitter about the possibility of me delivering a seminar, centered on Llantarnam Abbey, in the coming year, so to meet face to face was brilliant. The excavations at Caerleon cropped up in conversation and I ended up being introduced to Dr Peter Guest by the side of Trench one the following weekend…

Excavating does not really bother me, I am a non-invasive sorta guy when it comes to archaeological investigation. Saying that, I have trenched many times on various excavations. What interested me at Caerleon was not so much what was being revealed but how the whole thing was run and organised. I volunteered to help on the community archaeological side of things and my offer was duly accepted. Imagine my surprise the following weekend when I  ended up in a trench, trowel in hand!

It was thouroughly enjoyable though, the experience of a large scale excavation was gained albeit through the eyes of an excavator. Not only that, I also got to interact with the general public as open days had been organised over the Bank Holiday weekend. I took several groups around the trenches explaining along the way what was thought to be in each one.

Yours truly, addressing the general public at Caerleon

So, what was found? Where exactly did we excavate and why? Not many people realise that there has to be a reason to excavate. You have to have good reason esspecially as this land had been protected for many years.

The answers to those questions deserve a page of their own. Watch this space.



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  1. Grim permalink

    Well written piece, most enlightening, little wonder Cadw would like you to do some public tours, most of the dingbats that they employ, fail to raise any enthusiasm, even amongst themselves. You’ve got my attention, and I’m not even interested in the subject.

  2. Grim permalink

    You seem unsure of my comments Dave, not to worry, I won’t bother you again, I’ll just read.

  3. I understood your comments Grim, I know where you are coming from.

  4. Welshblood permalink

    Thanks again MD for an interesting write up, but also for your remarkable talents in being a guide at Caerleon! Well done to all of you involved, you must be very proud of the way it all came together.

  5. Thanks Dave for a good explanation of the recent excavations at Caerleon. Strangely enough, I had to take a party of schoolchildren to Caerleon earlier this week and was thus able to give a fuller picture of what was actually there. i thoroughly enjoyed the open day at Caerleon (thanks for the heads up), especially watching you lying exhausted in a trench

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