By David Hopewell – Site Director

Gwynedd Archaeological Trust is carrying out an excavation at Rhuddgaer near Dwyran, Anglesey with a group of volunteers from the community along with students and staff from Bangor University. The site appears to be an early- medieval field system and settlement. Details of the site and previous work can be found here:


16 - 19th June

I and my colleague Neil McGuinness carried out a large area of geophysical survey to the west of our previous work. This picked up the end of the medieval field system which is in the south-western end of the survey. The small oval features are buildings.

26th and 29th June

The excavation aims to look at one of the buildings shown on the geophys. The entire area lies under a layer of sand up to a metre thick. We have been digging this off with a mechanical excavator and dumper. Very slow work. Our merry band of volunteers arrived on Monday 29 th ; most of the day was spent assembling tents and a marquee. The site is rather hard to get to so everything has to be brought in in a 4wd pickup. Proper archaeology starts tomorrow.

30th June

We finished machining off the majority of the sand, revealing the top of the building walls. There was still a lot of sand in the interior so a sterling job was done by “the shovel and barrow gang” who shifted a lot of sand. It was really hot so there were lots of breaks for water and hiding in the shade of the pickup. We had the first of several visits by local schools supervised by Anita Daimond.

1st July

It was a bit cooler today so the work is really moving on. The stone walls of the rectangular building are really clear and we have cleared most of the wind-blown sand from the site. Rain moving in as we left.

2nd July

We started clearing the sand off the old field boundary running towards the southern corner of the site. We've also been clearing a short-lived ground surface, again mostly sand, that runs over most of the site. Below this are the remains of the medieval ridge and furrow that was detected by the geophysics. Plough marks are still clearly visible in the uneven soil surface. We are finding a typical ploughed field that looks as if it was cultivated last week. In fact it was buried hundreds of years ago, perhaps in the well-documented sand storm in 1330.

3rd July

One of the aims of the excavation is to provide training and digging experience for students from Bangor University. Jane Kenney also from Gwynedd Archaeological Trust is carrying out a lot of the detailed recording and general organisation of the site while I carry on my duties as site director (pointing at things, writing the blog, talking to visitors etc.). Today she was giving the students lessons in using the GPS surveying equipment.

Today we continued clearance of the boundary and ploughed field. We also exposed more of the wall-top of the building. In places we can see a clear inner and outer face with small stones as wall core. It's beginning to look less like a rough rubble wall and more like a proper building. Rough weather is forecast over the weekend. I wonder if the marquee will still be there on Monday.

6th July

Nothing blew away or was struck by lightning over the weekend. Unfortunately the rough and very wet weather, continued for much of Monday meaning that we couldn't do much work on the building because it kept filling up with water. It was just about dry enough to work on the field boundary and ridge and furrow fields. The highlight of the day was the uncovering of part of the skeleton of a huge horse, perhaps an early example of a Shire horse. It has unusual horse-shoes that form a complete circle with a flattened end. The horse may have worked at Rhuddgaer during estate improvements in the late 18th early 19th century.

July 7th

The weather finally cleared up, so back to work. We had a small area of geophysical survey to do so I used this as a chance to provide some training and explain about the mysteries of nanoTeslas and magnetometer survey.

July 8th - 9th

We have been concentrating on the building, and trying to sort out details of its construction. There was a lot of soil over the ruined walls showing that the building had been out of use for quite a long time before the medieval sand inundation. We finally uncovered an entrance later on in the day. It was quite narrow, designed for humans rather than cattle. Good evidence for the building being a house rather than a barn.

The Bangor University students have been doing a great job of planning the medieval ridge and furrow.

July 10th

It is our last day with the full team, still much debate about what it all means. Prof. Nancy Edwards has been digging with us for most of the excavation and is still quietly confident of an early medieval date.

An earlier stone incorporated into the wall has an artificial hollow pecked into it. It looks like a prehistoric cup-mark but is in a stone as opposed to the more usual rock outcrop.

Many thanks to everybody who has worked on the excavation including students, volunteers and people on work experience. We will be back with a small team to finish off the recording on Monday and Tuesday.

July 12th - Open Day

We had a good turn-out for the open day. Many thanks to Anita Daimond who organised the tricky business of getting people to site via shuttle buses and to everyone who helped out on the day. Jane, Anita and I provided site tours for everyone who came along.

July 13th

We really needed to make some progress on the building for a final clean up and photographic record. Unfortunately the weather had other ideas and turned it into a swimming pool. Some work on the outer face of the wall uncovered what appears to be an earlier phase of masonry in the south-eastern corner of the building.

July 14th

The weather was much improved today, allowing us to work hard on finishing our work on the site. A second entrance, on the opposite side of the building to the other one, was uncovered at the last minute. This also contained a few bits of charcoal that could be useful for dating.

We reluctantly bade farewell to the excavation. We have found out a lot about the site but would have liked a couple more weeks to try and resolve a few of the many new questions that the excavation has raised! The post-excavation analysis will hopefully allow us to add to the interpretation and dating of the site.

July 15th and 16th

The excavation has now been filled in, buried again beneath its protecting layer of sand.

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Grant aided by Cadw

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