Left to right, Sergeant Diarmaid Walshe of the 1st Battalion The Rifles, Surgeon Commodore Peter Buxton RN OBE, Chairman of the Defence Archeological Group, Phil Harding from Time Team and Dr. Caroline Pudney from Cadw take a closer look at the excavations at Llanmelin Wood Hill Fort, Caerwent. ©Huw Evans Agency, Cardiff
Cadw teamed up with communities and the award winning soldiers from Operation Nightingale for an excavation of the possible tribal capital of the Silures – the Iron Age hillfort at Llanmelin Wood, Caerwent.
Llanmelin Community Project aims to provide an opportunity for disengaged members of society, who do not often get many life-chances, to participate in archaeology and help Cadw gain a better understanding of one of its monuments.
The excavations was led by Cadw with professional archaeological assistance from Archaeology Wales. The work was carried out by volunteers from hard-to-reach communities with the aim of helping them to build self-esteem and confidence as well as develop a wide range of generic and archaeological skills.
Dr. Caroline Pudney, Community Archaeologist for Cadw, commented: ‘We’re very excited about the project from an outreach and engagement point of view but also from an academic research perspective. Was this site indeed the tribal capital of the Silures, an Iron Age tribe that occupied south east Wales prior to the Roman conquest?
Soldiers wounded in Afghanistan from the award winning project “Operation nightingale” were also in attendance. (See www.daguk.org)
The Silures were a powerful and warlike tribe of ancient Britain, occupying approximately the counties of Monmouthshire, Breconshire and Glamorganshire of present day South Wales; and possibly Gloucestershire and Herefordshire of present day England. They were bordered to the north by the Ordovices; to the east by the Dobunni; and to the west by the Demetae.
The Iron Age hill fort at Llanmelin is about one mile east of the village overlooking the Castrogi Brook and with distant views of the Severn estuary. The fort covers an area of 2.2 hectares (5.4 acres), with a small outpost enclosure to the north-east. It is believed to have been first built around the 4th century BC, and rebuilt and extended in the 1st century BC.
Earthworks adjoining the fort to the south-east have been interpreted as funerary enclosures, suggesting to some that the fort was used as an oppidum or small town by the Silures. Finds of later Romano-British pottery have also been made at Llanmelin.
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