A six-year-old's discovery of a flint tool in a Neolithic ditch was the first of a "significant number" of thrilling finds at a Cardiff hill fort
Archaeologists hoping to discover Roman and Iron Age finds at a Welsh hillfort were shocked to unearth pottery and arrowheads predating their predicted finds by 4,000 years at the home of a powerful Iron Age community, including flint tools and weapons from 3,600 BC.
Caerau, an Iron Age residency on the outskirts of Cardiff, would have been a battleground more than 5,000 years ago according to the arrowheads, awls, scrapers and polished stone axe fragments found during the surprising excavation.
“Quite frankly, we were amazed,” says Dr Dave Wyatt, the co-director of the dig, from Cardiff University.
“Nobody predicted this. Our previous excavation [in 2013] yielded pottery and a mass of finds, including five large roundhouses, showing Iron Age occupation, and there’s evidence of Roman and medieval activity.
“But no-one realised the site had been occupied as far back as the Neolithic – predating the construction of the Iron Age hillfort by several thousand years.”
Oliver Davis, Dr Wyatt’s colleague on the CAER project, says the ditches date from the early Neolithic period when communities first settled and farmed the landscape.
“The location and number of Neolithic finds indicate that we have discovered a causewayed enclosure – a special place where small communities gathered together at certain important times of the year to celebrate, feast, exchange things and possibly find marriage partners,” he believes.
“Such sites are very rare in Wales with only five other known examples, mostly situated in the south.
“What's fascinating is that a number of the flint arrowheads we have found have been broken as a result of impact - this suggests some form of conflict occurred at this meeting place over 5,000 years ago.”
More than 250 community volunteers assisted an excavation visited by more than 1,200 people.
“What’s really great about this story is that we’ve made the Neolithic discoveries with the help of local people,” says Dr Wyatt.
“A six-year-old local boy spotted the first major Neolithic find – a flint tool from the Neolithic ditch.
“It’s all down to the hard work of local volunteers, who have been uncovering arrowheads and pottery, while local schoolchildren and teachers have been excavating and sieving the spoil heaps to look for finds.
“We really couldn’t have uncovered this remarkable story without them.”
Experts plan to use the finds and soil samples to draw conclusions about the occupation of the site and the stories of the people who lived there.
- Visit caerheritageproject.com for the latest updates.
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