By Ken Murphy

During 2010 the Dyfed Archaeological Trust carried out several excavations and surveys in and around Pembrokeshire. Some of the highlights are described here.

A possible Roman villa was investigated at Upper Newton, near Wolfscastle. Mark Merrony had carried out geophysical survey on this site in 2003 (reported on in  Journal No. 13), and subsequently followed it up with trial excavation. In 2010 the Trust expanded the area of geophysical survey and excavated further trial trenches with the aim of trying to better characterise the site. Unfortunately the presumed site of the villa lies directly beneath large hedge-banks and trenches positioned as close to the hedge-banks as possible failed to reveal any evidence of a villa. Results from the geophysical survey were more informative, not because the villa was revealed, but because a previous unknown Iron Age defended settlement was discovered.

Just over the county boundary at Pant y Butler, near Cardigan in Ceredigion, cremation burials beneath Bronze Age round barrows were excavated in September 2009 and September 2010. In both the excavated barrows it would seem that the original Bronze Age cremation burials had been deliberately removed and replaced by later burials, still of Bronze Age date, approximately 1800 BC. In the larger of the two barrows a jet bead necklace accompanied the replacement cremation. This is a very rare find in Wales, with only four others known. The jet probably originates from Whitby on the east coast of England and would have been valued for its seemingly magical properties.


Other rare Bronze Age artefacts were found during trial excavations at Fan round barrow, near Talsarn, also in Ceredigion. Here Pygmy Cups, small pottery vessels, had been placed in shallow pits with cremation burials. Fragments of melted bronze with one the cremations suggests that a spearhead or sword had been placed on the funerary pyre along with the body.

In the northeast of Pembrokeshire, on the border with Carmarthenshire, a group of enigmatic earthwork monuments has been surveyed and a very small-scale excavation undertaken. These seem to be pond barrows, a type of monument associated with round barrows. If they are pond barrows it would be unusual to find them in west Wales as they are a rare monument type and currently only known in Dorset and Wiltshire. Unfortunately the work undertaken so far has not been sufficient to characterise the earthworks.

The Trust has been recording the coastal heritage of southwest Wales with help from members of local communities, through a project called Arfordir. Pembrokeshire has a rich coastal heritage, emphatically demonstrated in the spring of 2010 when Sarah Carlsen, a local resident of Lydstep Haven, contacted the Trust to report discoveries on the beach. She had noted human (adults and children) and animal (mostly red deer) footprints in peat – a common deposit on the beaches of west Wales and know as the submerged forest – uncovered by a storm during exceptionally high tides. Lydstep is unique in Wales as in the early 20th century the skeleton of a pig with a flint arrowhead embedded in it was found beneath a fallen tree trunk in the submerged forest. The skeleton of this pig is now in the Natural History Museum in London and has been radiocarbon dated to c. 4200 BC. The footprints may be the result of hunters standing in the shallow waters of a freshwater lagoon. More analysis on the samples taken will be needed to confirm this.

During 2011 the Trust in conjunction with other organisation such as the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park will be investigating several sites in and around Pembrokeshire, including excavations at Fan round barrow, Henry VIII’s gun fort at Angle, and a medieval village at St Ishmael in Carmarthenshire. Volunteers are always welcome, so if you would like to join in please contact Alice Pyper at 01558 823121 Further details will be posted closer to the date of the excavations on the Trust’s website at More information on all the projects described above can be found on the Trust’s website.

NEWS FROM PETE CRANE – Archaeologist Pembrokeshire Coast National Park

Excavation is continuing this summer at Nevern Castle, between 19 June and 8 July, undertaken as a partnership between Nevern Community Council, which owns the site, Dr Chris Caple of Durham University and the National Park Authority. Students and local volunteers will be helping with the excavation.

Free guided tours of the excavations and the castle at Nevern will take place at 2.45pm every day except Thursdays. Visitors are welcome at any time during the dig and the site is open all year round.

Topographical and geophysical surveys are planned this year at Gribin Fort Solva and a ‘new fort’ further along the ridge. The dates of this work have not been fixed. More details will become available from PCNP or Dyfed Archaeological Trust.