Hedd yr Ynys Blog by Jane Kenney

July 2016
Hedd yr Ynys, Llangefni

30th June 2016

Hedd yr Ynys is Go!!

Although the volunteers are not due to arrive until Monday today was the first day of the dig as I started to open the trench that we are going to be working in. The field, although under grass at the moment, has been ploughed in the past. The plough-soil will be thoroughly mixed up and no archaeology will survive in it so we remove it by machine.

An 8 tonne digger and a tracked dumper truck arrived, eventually, from RG Hire. We had already laid out the trench and checked for services so stripping started. Lots of soil was carefully removed by the digger under close supervision from myself and we can now see the natural subsoil over part of the trench. In it are several ditches and gullies, some of which are curving and look very interesting.

During the stripping Beaver Hughes and Ian Harrison-Brown searched the plough-soil for metal finds with metal-detectors. Location of all the finds was accurately recorded as they came out. Lots of nails and other bits of iron were found but also some Victorian coins, an American dime, a lead plumbob and an interesting bronze item so far unidentified.

But the best finds weren't metal. There was one sherd of rather scruffy Roman pottery and a lovely flint scraper, suggesting possible Roman period and prehistoric archaeology in the area. All very hopeful. I'll put some photos of the finds on the blog next week.

4th July

The first proper day of the dig with volunteers on site. After lots of paperwork, health and safety induction and an introduction to the background of the site the volunteers got to work.

Lots of trowelling was done and features are starting to show up. Tomorrow we can start exploring some of the ditches and try to sort out several groups of stones that look as if they should be significant.

Here are some photos of the best finds so far. The photos are quick snaps and the finds are not yet cleaned but they give an idea of what is coming out. These have all been found by metal-detector or during the stripping but hopefully more will start to appear when we dig the features.

Roman Lead Spindlewhorl

Roman Lead Spindlewhorl

Roman Pottery

Unidentified Bronze Object

Flint Scraper

Roman Bronze Brooch and Pin


There is a clear Roman trend in the finds so activity of this period does seem likely.

5th July

Everyone is busy digging. We don't know what it is yet but it certainly looks interesting.

8th July

It's the end of the first week and the weather has been good to us. Even Thursday was much better than the forecast and the dampness made trowelling the soil much easier.

There are now exploratory slots into various ditches and pits and some drawing to record features has already been done.

We have certainly identified the ditch of the rectangular enclosure seen on the geophysical plot. A small stone object with a pyramidal-shaped end was found in the ditch: what was this for?

A deep pit full of stones was fully excavated. At the moment this is interpreted as a posthole that filled with stone after the post was removed. If it is a posthole there should be others in the area defining a structure, and the size of the hole suggests a big post and a big structure. More work is needed to find the rest of it.

A Roman coin was found in a clump of mud off someone's boot and a fine-grained stone with a groove, possibly a polishing or hone stone, was found in the top of one of the large ditches.

Stone with Groove

Busy Diggers

Pointed Stone from Rectangular Enclosure Ditch

Possible Large Posthole

Recording and Digging

Roman Coin Face

Roman Coin Reverse

15th July

It is the end of the main phase of excavation and we have had a lot of volunteers helping us over the two weeks. They all seemed to enjoy themselves. The weather has been variable with Thursday being quite hot and dry and Friday being rather wet. When it is dry the clay is so hard that trowelling becomes very difficult and when it is wet there is sticky, slippery mud everywhere, including all over the diggers. Despite the weather conditions everyone carried on with a smile.

The site is still hard to interpret with endless ditches and gullies, many cutting each other but some features in the north-west corner are looking possibly more like traces of a settlement. A plan of the site will be posted soon.

Now we are looking forward to the Open Day on Sunday. There are 128 people booked on tours at the moment so we are close to being full.

Hot dry weather and hard baked ground on Thursday

Rain most of the day and a mud-bath on site on Friday

Aerial view of the site by Richard Hockin

18th July

The Open Day on Sunday was very successful. 150 people booked on tours and a few turned up without bookings and joined tours anyway. The weather was very kind to us and everyone seemed to have a good time. The marquee holding displays about the site was filled between tours.

Just as successful was the temporary café run by Julia Morgan and her friends, providing an idyllic setting for a cup of tea and several tasty cakes. Well over £600 was raised for Digartref, the local homeless charity, so some generous donations were made.

Thanks very much to the GAT staff who helped make it a success: Dave, Nina, Bethan and Rob and to Rhys Mwyn who led the Welsh tours. Also thanks to Julia for organising the teas and her friends for baking so many cakes.


Dave leading a tour

Rhys Mwyn holding forth in the marquee

The popular tea shop

The start of another tour

22nd July

After a hard week planning, drawing and photographing the site is finally ready to put to bed. Tuesday was so hot that I thought we might have fatalities, but everyone survived. Myself and Dave were writing context sheets until late on Thursday evening and Alan Roberts of DTM Technologies came to carry out a laser scan of the busiest part of the site as a final record.

On Friday the site was backfilled and returned to a level pasture field.


25th July

We have had 56 volunteers working with us at different times over the 3 weeks and I would like to thank them all for their help. A huge amount was achieved in a short space of time.

Special thanks are due to Wyn and Julia Morgan for being so helpful and allowing the dig to happen.

So, what did we find? An outline plan of the features found on the site shows a large number of ditches of different types including the rectangular enclosure shown on the geophysical survey, which we were initially looking for. However that does not appear to be a mortuary enclosure and there is no evidence of any graves, so we have not found the cemetery that we were searching for.

There is a slightly wandering ditch running roughly east-west across the site that has a V-shaped profile rather suggestive of an Iron Age defensive ditch. A detailed look at the geophysical plot shows that this runs into a large ditch outside the trench. There is a gap in that ditch with two large blobs at either side, which seems to be an impressive entrance-way, with large postholes. These ditches could possibly be part of an Iron Age enclosure used into the Roman period as indicated by the Roman artefacts found on site. A stone-capped drain, stone flags and patches of cobbling as well as straight gullies and a pit suggest occupation within the possible enclosure.

As no datable finds were recovered from these features and no certain plan of a house was revealed it is hard to prove that this was a Romano-British settlement but that seems to be a strong possibility. Some of the ditches may have been associated paddocks and small fields.

Three very large pits were found in the northern part of the trench. They appear to be later than the possible settlement but their date and function is not clear. They possibly date to the 16th or 17th centuries as pottery of that period was found in the upper part of their fills.

There is more work to do studying the finds, samples and pulling the drawings and notes together. This may reveal more about what was going on.

A preliminary report will be written by the end of March 2017 and will be made available on the website. The finds will be studied next year and a full, final report will be written.


V-profiled ditch

Stone-capped drain and stone slabs

Final Results - December 2017

After studying the finds, closely inspecting the site records, and obtaining radiocarbon dates we now have a better idea of what was found in the excavation.

A selection of finds from Hedd yr Ynys


Clearly there was no cemetery. Radiocarbon dates from the capped drain, originally hoped to be part of a roundhouse, showed that in fact it dated to the 16th or 17th centuries AD. This led to a reinterpretation of the small ditched enclosures, which now appear to be small paddocks or rick yards, no more than about 400 years old.

The digging of large pits seems to have occurred in the 17th or 18th centuries and some of the features can be identified with a field boundary on an estate map dating to around 1800.

However the radiocarbon dates also provided a pleasant surprise as a patch of charred material proved to date from the 6th or 7th centuries AD, i.e. from the early medieval period (Dark Ages). This patch contained charred cereal grains and probably represents waste from domestic activity. Nearby a stone was set into an area of pale clay. This stone seems to have been used as a bake-stone and the clay may represent the location of a small structure possibly also of early medieval date.

Bakestone in place


For details on the results download either the Summary Report or the Full Excavation Report (available from early 2018).


Phased Plan of the Hedd yr Ynys site



Visit our social network sites
Ymwelwch a'n safleoedd rhwydwaith cymdeithasol