Amgueddfa Blog

Shwmae! My name is Adelle, and I’m a PhD student at Cardiff University studying Iron Age mortuary practice in southwest Britain. I’m going to tell you about my amazing experience and some things I learned volunteering as part of the excavation team of the now-famous Iron Age chariot burial in Pembrokeshire. I’ll start from the beginning…

The Story

I received an email in the spring of 2018 inviting me to help with an excavation of what was thought to be an Iron Age hoard discovered in a farmer’s field somewhere in Pembrokeshire. I had dreamt of the day I’d get to excavate anything Iron Age, as my passion for Welsh prehistory inspired me to move from my home in rural Kentucky (USA) to study at Cardiff. I had no idea that this opportunity would lead to the most rewarding, enriching, and educational experiences of my life.

The dig site was in a beautiful field near the entrance to a spectacular Iron Age promontory fort that was previously unknown. The thought that there is still so much left to discover about the prehistory of Wales left me buzzing with inspiration and wonder. I had never been to this farm in Pembrokeshire but it somehow felt warm and familiar, like an old friend; it felt like coming home after a very long journey.

The initial excavation was…hot, to put it mildly! The clay we were digging baked in the sun as temperatures climbed to 32 degrees. The archaeology didn’t quite make sense as we searched for the rest of the “hoard”. And then, Mark Lewis, the curator at the National Roman Legion Museum at Caerleon (and whom I am pretty sure is actually a Time Lord from Gallifrey), uncovered the top of a massive iron tyre. This was no hoard—it was a chariot burial. The first one found outside of Yorkshire and Edinburgh; here in Wales. The whole team stopped and gathered around the tyre. We stood there in silence in a mutual understanding that everything we thought we knew about the Iron Age in Wales was about to change. Some of us grabbed onto each other in fear of falling off the face of the earth as our worlds turned upside down! 

A chariot burial was beyond our timescale, and we needed the help of skilled conservators to ensure the survival of the 2,000 year-old metalwork. It was a long year until we were able to go back to uncover the chariot. With a bigger team, more time, more rainfall and more volunteers, we successfully uncovered the first chariot burial in Wales this spring. I sometimes go down to the Archaeology Conservation Laboratory at National Museum Cardiff to say hello to the chariot pieces and wish them luck as they embark on their new journey towards restoration! Louise Mumford, our archaeological conservator, is like a wizard bringing ancient and long-forgotten objects back to their former glory.

What I Learned

I learned more about archaeology during that excavation than I ever could have imagined. The combined knowledge of these archaeologists that I have long admired was mind-boggling, and I tried my best to soak in every delicious morsel of free expertise. I had read some of their books; these men and women had been teaching me since before I left Kentucky. As we discussed practice during work and theory over dinner, I felt myself becoming much more confident as an archaeologist.

Aside from growing as a researcher, I gained a much greater understanding for the public’s perception of archaeology. The archaeology of Wales is not a niche interest for academics—as heritage, it belongs to everyone, and people are very often as enthusiastic about it as I am. For example, one of my favourite aspects of the excavation was spending time with the farmer who owns the land and his family. It was heart-warming to see their interest in not just the things we were digging up, but how we were doing it. To have our field of work understood and appreciated for the (sometimes painfully slow) process that it is, was rewarding.

This satisfying combination of archaeological practice and public engagement has inspired me to continue volunteering at the museum for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru). Without PAS, this excavation wouldn’t have happened, and this significant part Wales’ story would have remained untold. PAS is giving an invaluable gift to the people of Wales by documenting their material heritage and making it easily accessible to everyone. I am honoured to be a part of it, and I feel better equipped to use my own research to give back to the public.

Get involved!

I encourage everyone to volunteer for archaeological excavations. It’s one thing to see beautiful ancient objects behind glass cases, or 2D images in a book, but to be there as the earth gives way and the object is reborn from it, is nothing short of magical. It’s dirty, often laborious, but the friendships made, the knowledge gained, and the magical sense of discovery is worth every drop of sweat as we rediscover lost memories from our ancient past.

I hope to see some new faces at future excavations. Iechyd da!


Dewch i ailddarganfod trysor Rhufeinig ddaeth i’r fei yng Nghaerllion ym 1926!

Defnyddiwch yr Ap i archwilio'r Amffitheatr a'r Barics yng Nghaerllion. Dilynwch gliwiau a chwrdd â chymeriadau hanesyddol i helpu chi i ddarganfod trysorau'r Amgueddfa - lle cawsant eu darganfod un wreiddiol. Os dewch o hyd iddynt i gyd byddwch yn agor rhith-Amgueddfa Lleng Rufeinig Cymru. Mae'r Ap hwn yn brosiect partneriaeth rhwng Amgueddfa Cymru a Cadw. Mae'n cysylltu trysorau amgueddfeydd â'r lleoedd lle cawsant eu darganfod yn y safleoedd hanesyddol a gynhelir gan Cadw yng Nghaerleon.


Sut i chwarae:

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    It’s been a while since we introduced the art trolley as part of the Explore Volunteer fleet, but now it’s time to introduce you all to the evolution trolley. 

    The first thing you’ll notice is that this is a much smaller trolley. As such it has a smaller – but no less interesting – number of exhibits for visitors to interact with. We position this trolley in the Evolution of Wales gallery, close to the ever-popular dinosaurs, providing visitors with an opportunity to touch real and replica fossils from the prehistoric world. 

    So what do we have on the evolution trolley altogether? Aside from dinosaur teeth, we have a range of fossils from different prehistoric eras. In the video below, we explain each of the exhibits and how they illustrate the evolutionary timeline of earth.

    Music credit: "Expeditionary" by Kevin MacLeod. Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 4.0 International License.

    Catch up with previous Explore Volunteer posts on our Blog page.

    What do you do if you have minerals in your collection that have a tendency to react chemically? For our research student Kathryn Royce this means: growing minerals from a super saturated solution, then sticking the crystals in a climate chamber for a few weeks and forcing them to dehydrate.

    Yes, you read right, some minerals can dehydrate. There is a good number of mineral species which are poly-hydrated, meaning, minerals that contain water molecules as part of their crystal structure. Many of these mineral species can, under certain conditions, lose some of these water molecules. This process actually turns the mineral into a different mineral – just one with a lower hydration status.

    For example, the mineral melanterite (FeSO4 · 7H2O), which has 7 water molecules, may lose some water molecules if kept at a relative humidity below 57%. The resultant products include either the mineral siderotil (same chemical formula but only 5 water molecules) or rozenite (4 water molecules). In the context of wanting to preserve melanterite in a museum collection, the dehydration products siderotil and rozenite, whilst minerals in their own right, would be classed as deterioration products and, hence, their appearance be undesirable.

    To understand this process, and define how we would characterise the concept of ‘damage’ to mineral specimens, Kathryn is now analysing the deterioration products using a combination of different analytical techniques, including X-ray diffraction, electron microscopy, Raman spectroscopy and computerised tomography scanning. The results will help us develop a methodology for long-term monitoring of geological collections in museums and improve the care of such collections in museums.

    This research is being undertaken at National Museum Cardiff in collaboration with the School of Geography and Environment at University of Oxford and the EPSRC Centre for Doctoral Training in Science and Engineering in Arts, Heritage and Archaeology (SEAHA), and kindly supported by OR3D, BSRIA, the Barbara Whatmore Charitable Trust, the National Conservation Service, and the Pilgrim Trust.

    Find out more about Care of Collections at Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales here and follow us on Twitter

    Blancedi Argyfwng Cymreig gan Daniel Trivedy

    Trist yw gweld trafodaeth wleidyddol a chyhoeddus heddiw yn troi fwyfwy yn senoffobia, atgasedd at ffoaduriaid a cheiswyr lloches gyda sêl bendith llywodraethau, cenedlaetholdeb mewnblyg a hiliaeth agored. Yn y cyd-destun hwn, gellir gweld gwaith Daniel Trivedy fel gwrthsafiad calonogol. Mae'n dangos Cymru fel cenedl groesawgar, drugarog, gynhwysol a gwlad sydd â nod o ddod yn 'Genedl Noddfa', y gyntaf yn dilyn lansio Cenedl Noddfa – Cynllun Ffoaduriaid a Cheiswyr Lloches Llywodraeth Cymru ym mis Ionawr 2019.

    Braint Amgueddfa Cymru felly yw dewis Blancedi Argyfwng Cymreig Daniel fel pwrcasiad blynyddol cyntaf y sefydliad o'r Eisteddfod Genedlaethol. Blancedi argyfwng gyda gorchudd ffoil PET arian ac aur yw'r rhain. Mae'r blancedi'n rhan gyfarwydd o'r golygfeydd o driniaeth annynol mewnfudwyr o Fecsico ar ffin UDA, neu'r mewnfudwyr i Ewrop a achubwyd wrth groesi Môr y Canoldir. Ond rhoddwyd naws groesawgar unigryw a Chymreig i'r rhain drwy brintio dros yr ochr aur (sy'n cadw gwres) batrymau blancedi gwlân traddodiadol Cymreig – esiampl wych o gyfuno'r lleol a'r rhyngwladol.

    Mae Daniel yn deall fod gan ddeunyddiau iaith, a bod gan ddefnyddiau penodol gysylltiadau sy'n ennyn ymateb penodol. Ei nod yw dangos i ni beth all ddigwydd o uno'r gwahanol elfennau. 'Ydyn nhw'n gwrthdaro a chroestynnu, neu'n cydorwedd mewn tawelwch anghysurus? Ydyn nhw'n uno ac asio, yn siarad â'i gilydd, neu'n esgor ar ffurf newydd hyd yn oed?'

    Ar y naill llaw, dyluniwyd y flanced argyfwng i'w masgynhyrchu yn rhad ac effeithiol, a fawr mwy na hynny. I nifer ohonom, mae'n dwyn i gof boen a dioddefaint ymfudwyr mewn amodau erchyll ar y môr neu mewn gwersylloedd ffoaduriaid. Mae'n perthyn i 'rywle arall' a 'phobol eraill', fel dywed Daniel.

    Ar y llaw arall, mae'r flanced wlân Gymreig yn cyfleu cynhesrwydd, traddodiad ac atgof, diogelwch a chysur. Beth sy'n digwydd wrth ddod â'r ddwy nodwedd ynghyd? Dwi'n credu ei bod hi'n neges galonogol. Rydyn ni'n sylweddoli ein bod 'ni' ac 'eraill' yr un fath. Fe allwn ac fe ddylem ni feddwl a gweithredu yn lleol ac yn rhyngwladol ar yr un pryd. Fe allwn ac fe ddylem ni ddefnyddio ein traddodiadau, nid i'n cau rhag eraill, ond i ddod at ein gilydd i gefnogi'n gilydd.

    Ganwyd Daniel Trivedy ym 1975 ac mae o dras Indiaidd. Cafodd ei fagu yn ne-ddwyrain Lloegr ac mae bellach yn gweithio yn Abertawe. Yn ogystal â gweithio fel artist, mae'n darlithio yng Ngholeg Sir Gâr, Caerfyrddin, ac yn Swyddog Rhanbarthol Cyngor Celfyddydau Cymru, Caerfyrddin. Wedi ennill gradd dosbarth cyntaf mewn Daeareg a Phalaeontoleg yn Imperial College, Llundain (1993-1996), yn ddiweddarach astudiodd Gelfyddyd Gain yng Ngholeg Celf Abertawe (2010-2013).


    Andrew Renton, Ceidwad Celf