Monday 8 May 2017

Digging up the past

Skomer Island is not only a wonderful place to see wildlife but it also the place to see an amazing array of pre-historic remains - one of the best preserved remains in Britain.

Toby Driver showing flint tools at the Harold Stone

On the 27th of April we organised a history walk and Louise Barker and Toby Driver from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales were our guides. We were very lucky that the walk went ahead as it had to be postponed the previous day due to strong northerly winds. However, the weather last Thursday was good even though there was still a rather chilly northerly breeze blowing.

The history walk participants walking through fields of Bluebells and Red Campion in the sun

Eighteen participants enjoyed walking around the island and delving into pre-history with Toby and Louise bringing the past to life: we could nearly smell the Iron Age cooking fires and hear the cattle mooing.

Pretending to be Iron Age people in the roundhouse at the Wick

One of the sites we visited was the roundhouse at the Wick. Archaeologists believe that this circular structure was once an Iron Age roundhouse, home to some of Skomer’s earliest settlers. You can still walk in through the original front door. Probably belonging to a farming family, this roundhouse would have been used for cooking, eating and sleeping, as well as providing shelter from the elements. The roundhouse sits at one end of a rectangular paddock, and is located within an extensive prehistoric field system which crosses The Wick.

While this hut is the clearest and most accessible, there are many more similar structures dotted around the island. Some are too small to have been used as homes, and are believed to have been used as storerooms instead, perhaps for crops or fuel. One theory is that some could even have been used as sweat lodges - the prehistoric versions of saunas!

Louise explaining to the guests what the team of archaeologists found at their last excavation in April 2017
In 2014 Louise and Toby's team of archaeologists started to excavate some of the remains in order to date them and to gather more information about the former inhabitants of Skomer.  

Between 5th-8th April 2017, the Skomer Island Project Team undertook another excavation on a deep field lynchet in the southern part of the island. It is hoped that charcoal and luminescence samples (by Aberystwyth University) taken from the lynchet may help to establish absolute chronological markers for key phases in the development of the Island’s fields and settlements, while further environmental sampling (by Cardiff University) will allow the more accurate reconstruction the environmental history of the island. For more information and photos of the dig see here.

(Skomer Warden)

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