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BERRY HILL DIG DIARY 2007     

 

PREHISTORIC AND ROMAN DEFENDED FARMSTEADS IN NORTH PEMBROKESHIRE AND SOUTH CEREDIGION
EXCAVATION AT BERRY HILL AND GEOPHYSICAL SURVEY

Aerial photograph of Berry Hill with the defensive ditches showing as a cropmark
Aerial photograph of Berry Hill with the defensive ditches showing as a cropmark

Geophysical survey of Berry Hill undertaken in 2006
Geophysical survey of Berry Hill undertaken in 2006

 

A number of crop-marked enclosures of later prehistoric and Romano-British date have been recognised through aerial photography in north Pembrokeshire and south Ceredigion. The late prehistoric settlement of southwest Wales is characterised by hillforts and smaller defended enclosures. Typically these consist of defensive banks and ditches enclosing an oval area. Rarely, some enclosures are rectangular. During the course of the discovery in north Pembrokeshire and south Ceredigion it became increasingly clear that a high proportion of the enclosures were rectangular.

The rectangular enclosures are remarkably similar with ditches 3m to 5m wide enclosing an area 45m to 55m across and an entrance mid-way along one side. Although the ditches indicate a defensive function, rectangular enclosures are not located in defensive locations; most in the study are sited on hill-slopes often just below a summit.

During the summer of 2004 a geophysical survey on eight sites demonstrated that important below ground archaeology is likely to survive in addition to the enclosure ditches. In particular, circular gullies, probably indicating the location of round-houses, hearths, post-holes and internal divisions of the enclosures were detected on some sites.

In the summer of 2005, Troedyrhiw was selected for excavation on the basis that it was a good example of a rectangular enclosure and one where the geophysical survey demonstrated that below ground archaeology is likely to survive. Artefacts are not common on prehistoric sites in west Wales. However, the most likely location for finds is in the ditch ends close to the entrance. Therefore this area was chosen for excavation. Geophysical survey was also undertaken on four other sites, including oval enclosures as well as rectangular ones.

In 2006, the site of Ffynnonwen was chosen for excavation. This work revealed several Iron Age round-houses and other buildings within the enclosure. The defensive ditch was rock-cut up to 3m deep. Very few artefacts were recovered. Several more sites were geophysically surveyed, including a full survey of Ffynnonwen.

In 2007, a promontory fort at Berry Hill was chosen for excavation. Geophysical survey on this site in 2006 confirmed its presence, but no details such as round-house gullies or post-holes were revealed.

The project is being undertaken in collaboration with the University of York. It is grant-aided by Cadw. The excavations at Ffynnonwen are allowed by the kind permission of Hayden Evans.

Previous years’ dig diaries and PDF reports:

Ffynnonwen Dig Diary 2006

Prehistoric Enclosures in Southern Ceredigion Dig Diary 2005    

 

Andy Greef marking out the trench. Newport Beach and Dinas Head are visible in the background.
Andy Greef marking out the trench. Newport Beach and Dinas Head are visible in the background.

Day 1 - July 15th 2007

A set-up day, taking tools to the site and marking out the trench in readiness for machining the following day. Hayden Evans, the farmer, has kindly cut he long grass and fenced off the site from the rest of the field.

Photo caption. Andy Greef marking out the trench. Newport Beach and Dinas Head are visible in the background.


Topsoil stripping in progress

 

Day 2 - July 16th 2007

Topsoil stripping began. Good progress was made with topsoil removed from over half of the trench. Soil conditions were not easy, but the large defensive ditches were visible as well as some possible postholes. Owing to the wet conditions it was not possible to get the store shed/office up the hill to the site. A marquee was therefore order in its place. In conjunction with the excavation, geophysical survey started on a crop-marked site around the redundant church of Llangan, After work the participants on the excavation went on a site trip to Nevern Castle and Church.

 

 


Harold Mytum of the University of York talking about the gravestones in Nevern Church


Hubert Wilson of Dyfed Archaeological Trust teaching Paddy Morton and Felicity Hemlin surveying


The emerging geophysical survey at Llangan Church

 

Finishing off the topsoil stripping
Finishing off the topsoil stripping

Day 3 - July 17th 2007

Stripping of topsoil off the site was completed. The tops of the defensive ditches at the entrance to the promontory fort were revealed, showing them to be at least 4m wide. Despite the wet conditions some postholes and other minor features were visible.

Geophysics on the Llangan Church site was continued.

 

 

The digging crew starting to clean the site

The digging crew starting to clean the site
The digging crew starting to clean the site

Day 4 - July 18th 2007

Warm, sunny weather, finally. This was the first day on site for the diggers. Rapid cleaning of the site revealed more pits and postholes. A start was made on the excavation of one of the large ditch terminals at the entrance.

Geophysical survey of one of the fields at Llangan Church was completed. The survey revealed several small rectilinear enclosures, ditches and possible hearths or furnaces.


The completed geophysical survey of one field at Llangan Church

An early lunch taken during a heavy shower
An early lunch taken during a heavy shower


The early stages of excavating the ditch terminal
The early stages of excavating the ditch terminal


Cleaning over the very scant remains of the defensive bank
Cleaning over the very scant remains of the defensive bank

Day 5 - July 19th 2007

A day punctuated by heavy showers, and progress at the end of the day was terminated by a thunderstorm. Cleaning of the site continued. Only a few centimetres of the defensive bank inside the ditch on the north side of the entrance seems to survive: the bank on the south side has completely gone. A start was made on digging out the defensive ditch terminal on the south side of the entrance. No artefacts have yet been discovered on the site.

Geophysical survey started on Plas-y-Parc concentric defended enclosure; part of the outer enclosure was revealed. This survey will continue over the next few days.

We are hoping for better weather tomorrow to complete cleaning of the site. Heavy rain is forecast, however.

 


Initial results of the Plas-y-Parc geophysical survey
Initial results of the Plas-y-Parc geophysical survey


Final cleaning of the site

Final cleaning of the site
Final cleaning of the site

Day 6 - July 20th 2007

It rained all day! However, a large and willing digging crew valiantly soldiered on and finished the initial cleaning of the site, ensuring that more detailed excavation will shortly be able to start, weather permitting. Progress was also made on excavating the large defensive ditch. Because of the rain no significant progress was made on the Plas-y-Parc geophysical survey.

 


Progress continuing on the excavation of the defensive ditch
Progress continuing on the excavation of the defensive ditch

Excavating the line of five postholes
Excavating the line of five postholes

Anna McQuarrie planning the top of the defensive bank
Anna McQuarrie planning the top of the defensive bank

Day 7 - July 22nd 2007

As many trains were cancelled due to flooding several people were not able to make it to the excavation, and therefore there was a much-reduced workforce over what had been anticipated. Good progress was made however, despite frequent, heavy showers. Excavation began on a line of five postholes and planning the defensive bank commenced. Excavation of the defensive ditch continued.

At Plas-y-Parc the geophysical survey is showing this concentric enclosureAt Plas-y-Parc the geophysical survey is showing this concentric enclosure

The geophysical plot to date of Plas-y-Parc
The geophysical plot to date of Plas-y-Parc

Sikko van der Brug with a stone artefact found in the defensive ditch
Sikko van der Brug with a stone artefact found in the defensive ditch

Digging the ditch showing the large quartz boulders
Digging the ditch showing the large quartz boulders

Alex Gaillard excavating one of a line of post-holes
Alex Gaillard excavating one of a line of post-holes


Day 8 - July 23rd 2007

Continuing work on digging out the defensive ditch revealed two large quartz boulders. Originally these were probably used in a revetment wall to the terminal of the defensive bank at the entrance. Part of the ditch was found to be very shallow. It is not certain yet whether it was left unfinished or whether it was dug in segments. Continuing work will answer this question. Elsewhere excavation on five pits/post-holes was almost completed. It is likely that these are fairly recent features and not Iron Age in date.

Geophysical survey on the Plas-y-Parc site was completed revealing an inner enclosure with a possible roundhouse and an outer, concentric enclosure.

The completed geophysical survey of Plas-y-Parc.
The completed geophysical survey of Plas-y-Parc

Surveying the site of Plas-y-Parc
Surveying the site of Plas-y-Parc

An evening visit to Y Foel Drigarn. Harold Mytum explaining the significance of the site, with a large burial cairn in the background
An evening visit to Y Foel Drigarn. Harold Mytum explaining the significance of the site, with a large burial cairn in the background

Hilary Gould planning a post-hole
Hilary Gould planning a post-hole

Day 9 - July 24th 2007

On this, the first day without rain, good progress was made. Section drawing on the defensive ditch terminal on the south side of the entrance began in advance of deepening and extending. Topsoil was hand removed from the ditch terminal on the north side of the entrance. Early stages of excavation on the very thin remains of the surviving defensive bank to the north of the entrance revealed the buried soil beneath the bank. A plan was made of a possible entrance post-hole in advance of excavation.

Geophysical survey at Treferedd Uchaf revealed the inner enclosure, the entrance track and part of the outer, concentric enclosure. Work will continue on this site tomorrow.

Katie Marsden excavating the defensive ditch. Note the large quartz boulders and the segmented character of the ditch.
Katie Marsden excavating the defensive ditch. Note the large quartz boulders and the segmented character of the ditch

Two versions of the Treferedd Uchaf geophysical plot.
Two versions of the Treferedd Uchaf geophysical plot


Anna McQuarrie and Alex Gaillard removing the very thin remains of the defensive bank
Anna McQuarrie and Alex Gaillard removing the very thin remains of the defensive bank

Hilary Gould recording a post-hole of the fort gate
Hilary Gould recording a post-hole of the fort gate

Gill Salt and Neil Attwood surveying the Treferedd Uchaf enclosure
Gill Salt and Neil Attwood surveying the Treferedd Uchaf enclosure

 

Day 10 - July 25th 2007

Good progress was made following heavy overnight rain. Work continued on digging out the south ditch terminal and a start was made on excavating the remains of the defensive bank. Only a few centimetres of this were shown to survive. The geology around the entrance to the fort was very mixed, with soft glacial silts and sands overlying shattered bedrock, making identification of archaeological features problematical. However, a post-hole, probably part of the promontory fort gate structure, was identified and excavation of it started.

The geophysical survey at Treferedd Uchaf revealed more of the concentric enclosure.

 

 



The emerging Treferedd Uchaf geophysical survey


Clearing up mud following heavy rain
Clearing up mud following heavy rain

Removing topsoil over the ditch terminal on the north side of the entrance
Removing topsoil over the ditch terminal on the north side of the entrance

Continuing excavation of the defensive ditch on the south side of the entrance
Continuing excavation of the defensive ditch on the south side of the entrance

Day 11 - July 26th 2007

Work was delayed until late morning owing to heavy rain. Once it had cleared work continued on excavating the defensive ditch on the south side of the entrance and topsoil was removed by hand over the ditch terminal on the north side of the entrance. This work rapidly revealed a very large quartz boulder.

The geophysical survey was completed at Treferedd Uchaf.

 

 


The completed Treferedd Uchaf geophysical survey


Paddy Morton cleaning a section of the south ditch terminal
Paddy Morton cleaning a section of the south ditch terminal

The digging team at the mid-point of the excavation
The digging team at the mid-point of the excavation

Day 12 - July 27th 2007

Work continued on digging out the north ditch terminal and recording the section of the south ditch terminal. Further examination of the internal area of the fort failed to reveal any pits, post-holes or gullies. It is looking increasingly likely that there will be no remains of buildings or other structures in the excavated area.

 

 

Work continuing on excavating the north ditch terminal
Work continuing on excavating the north ditch terminal

Excavating the north ditch terminal. Note the large quartz boulder
Excavating the north ditch terminal. Note the large quartz boulder

Day 13 - July 29th 2007

This was a quiet day with a small digging team and therefore the opportunity was taken to record ditch sections and continue the excavation of the north ditch terminal. The first warm day of the excavation.


 

Arthur and Godfrey Heckler detecting on the site
Arthur and Godfrey Heckler detecting on the site

 

 

The north ditch terminal showing the large quartz boulder
The north ditch terminal showing the large quartz boulder

Day 14 - July 30th 2007

The large quartz boulder in the north ditch terminal was fully exposed, drawn and photographed in preparation for removal. Continuing excavation on the entrance gate-post showed that it was a double post-hole. However, it has not, so far, been possible to located its twin - the gate-posthole on the north side of the gate. The posthole was found to cut through an earlier palisade trench.

Two metal dectorists, Arthur and Godfrey Heckler, scanned the site for finds, but found nothing.

Flotation on soil samples taken from the ditch and pits/postholes has revealed carbonised seeds. Astrid Caseldine of Lampeter University will undertake analysis of these.

Geophysical survey returned to Llangan Church to examine a field not available earlier. Unfortunately owing to technical reasons today’s survey will have to be redone.

Janet Kay excavating the palisade trench
Janet Kay excavating the palisade trench

Colin Evans removing a boulder from the ditch
Colin Evans removing a boulder from the ditch

 

Day 15 - July 31st 2007

Colin Evans removes a large boulder in the ditch terminal with his tractor enabling us to continue excavating. The entrance post-hole on the north side of the gate was located and excavation started on it. The geology here is very disturbed and the post-hole is poorly defined. In the evening a visit to the Carn Ingli, a large hill-fort on the Preseli Mountains, was made from which Berry Hill can be seen.

 

 

 

 

 

Graeme Bick excavating the post-hole on the north side of the entrance
Graeme Bick excavating the post-hole on the north side of the entrance

Berry Hill, centre right above the wooded slope, from Carn Ingli
Berry Hill, centre right above the wooded slope, from Carn Ingli

General view of the site
General view of the site

Excavating the north ditch terminal
Excavating the north ditch terminal


Zoe Bevans-Rice excavating the palisade trench
Zoe Bevans-Rice excavating the palisade trench

Day 16 - August 1st 2007

Continuing excavation of the north ditch terminal revealed two more massive quartz boulders. The ditch deposits here indicate a slow silting of the ditch. The palisade trench cut by the ditch and by an entrance post-hole was show to be a substantial feature with a gateway within it. It is unknown whether this palisade immediately pre-dates the hill-fort or is considerably earlier.

Geophysical survey at Llangan Church located the concentric crop-mark enclosure with what seems to be two phases of rectangular building with central hearths within the inner enclosure.

 

 

 

The geophysical survey in the field to the south of Llangan Church
The geophysical survey in the field to the south of Llangan Church

 





 

James Paul excavating the north ditch terminal
James Paul excavating the north ditch terminal

The south ditch terminal with Sikko van der Brug. Note the lower stony infill probably from the collapsed defensive bank
The south ditch terminal with Sikko van der Brug. Note the lower stony infill probably from the collapsed defensive bank

Panoramic view of the Llangan site
Panoramic view of the Llangan site

Day 17 - August 2nd 2007

Excavation continued on the north ditch terminal, fully revealing the two massive quartz boulders. The ditch is rock-cut with evidence of antler-pick marks on the rock. It is hoped that this ditch will be fully excavated tomorrow.Further fills of the south ditch terminal were also removed. For health and safety reasons this work is being done in stages in order to reveal the base of this deep ditch.

At Llangan the geophysics detected a triple ditched outer enclosure surrounding a smaller enclosure. It is anticipated that this survey will be finished tomorrow.

 



The emerging Llangan geophysical survey
The emerging Llangan geophysical survey



 

Astrid Caseldine taking column sample of the buried soil beneath the defensive bank
Astrid Caseldine taking column sample of the buried soil beneath the defensive bank

James Paul excavating the base of the north ditch terminal
James Paul excavating the base of the north ditch terminal

Day 18 - August 3rd 2007

Astrid Caseldine of Lampeter University arrived to take environmental samples. Excavation continued on the north ditch terminal, with the base of the ditch reached at c.1.8m. Recording of post-holes and the palisade trench continued. Geophysical survey at Llangan Church continued.

 


 

Janet Kay cleaning the section of the north ditch terminal
Janet Kay cleaning the section of the north ditch terminal

The completed Llangan Church geophysical survey
The completed Llangan Church geophysical survey

Day 19 - August 5th 2007

An open day for visitors and local people was arranged for today. Unfortunately it would seem that tourists made the most of unusually warm weather to go the beach and farmers made hay, and therefore the turnout was disappointingly small. On site the section of the north ditch terminal was cleaned ready for recording. The completed geophysical survey at Llangan showed what might be a second rectangular building in the inner enclosure.

 


 

Nigel Martin excavating the lower fills of the south ditch terminal
Nigel Martin excavating the lower fills of the south ditch terminal

Planning the palisade trench
Planning the palisade trench

Day 20 - August 6th 2007

Excavation of the bottom ditch of the south ditch terminal was almost completed and recording of the section of the north ditch terminal started. Cleaning of the site for final photographs started.

Geophysical survey started at Ffynnon Llygoden, a crop-marked enclosure with several small external rectangular enclosures, possibly of early medieval date.

 


 

The completely excavated north ditch terminal
The completely excavated north ditch terminal

The large ditches were cut through shale bedrock. These were probably excavated using antler-picks. What seems to be antler-pick mark is visible in this photograph on the wall of the ditch.
The large ditches were cut through shale bedrock. These were probably excavated using antler-picks. What seems to be antler-pick mark is visible in this photograph on the wall of the ditch

The palisade trench showing the entrance through it
The palisade trench showing the entrance through it


Day 21 - August 7th 2007

As this was an ideal day for photography most of the day was spent preparing the site. Recording was also undertaken.

The geophysical survey at Ffynnon Llygoden was completed.

Panoramic view of the site
Panoramic view of the site

The Ffynnon Llygoden geophysical survey
The Ffynnon Llygoden geophysical survey



 


The excavated south ditch terminal

The entrance area showing the entrance post-holes and the palisade trench
The entrance area showing the entrance post-holes and the palisade trench


Day 22 - August 8th 2007

The final day of excavation. It would seem most likely that the promontory fort was unfinished or abandoned and little used. The defensive ditch to the south of the entrance was almost 3m deep at the terminal, rock-cut and steep-sided. This deep section was, however, only 4m-5m long, as it rapidly shallowed out then deepened again. Basically it was dug in a series of short, unfinished segments. The fills of the south and north ditch contained little in the way of occupation material – charcoal, burnt stone, daub, burnt bone – strengthening the notion that the site was not intensively used. The palisade trench does, however, indicate a longer period of use, as it was cut by the defensive ditch and by an entrance post-hole. This may have been a ‘security’ fence constructed in preparation for the fort, and could predate the digging of the defensive ditches by as little as a few weeks. Until radiocarbon dates are obtained this, however, is just speculation.

 

The digging team on the final day
The digging team on the final day

 


 

 


 

 

 

 

 

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