Cymraeg

Looking across Swansea Bay on a chilly spring morning and seeing that the tide was out came with a sigh of relief as this meant we didn’t have to wait an hour or so to get started with our beachcomb.

I joined Swansea Museum on The Mumbles side of the Bay to take part in one of their community projects that aims to engage local communities with their pasts. On this occasion the museum teamed up with the Llanrhidian Women’s Institute and the Gurnos Men’s Community First group to take part in a beachcomb led by archaeologist Paul Huckfield, from the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust.

All wrapped up in extra layers we were ready to begin our trek across the swamp-like beach, luckily most of us received the wellies memo and they were definitely needed.

Beachcombing on Swansea bay with Llanrhidian Women's Institute and the Gurnos Men's Community First group.
Beachcombing on Swansea bay with Llanrhidian Women's Institute and the Gurnos Men's Community First group.

Paul wanted to create a sense of what the landscape would have been like during the Bronze Age and took us to areas on the beach where some of the landscape remained fairly similar and unchanged.

We’re standing on the actual ground surface as it would have been in the Bronze Age. You can see the peat levels just here show what would have been around in the Bronze Age; you can see that this is black in colour from the trees and bits of foliage. So you’re actually standing in the past at around 4,000 years ago.”

Travelling through time across the bay allowed us to think of what life would have been like 4,000 years ago, what is now a beach would have been a woodland and shrubbery area surrounded with fresh water pools.

Paul talks about some of the reason why the landscape changed and during what periods. You can watch the clip HERE:

Bringing us through time to the 19th and 20th century we were then led to some of the remaining shipwrecks found on Swansea Bay. On the Mumbles side of the bay alone we could spot around 14 shipwrecks and vessels. Vessel remains are still on the bay and these would have been used to protect the area from submarine attacks during the Second World War.

Paul said: “The whole beach is covered in metal uprights and wire to stop enemy gliders coming onto the beach.”

Another shipwreck was part of an oyster fleet. We learnt that the bay was a natural resource for oysters and they were a major food source, some dating back to Roman times, however this source was destroyed during the industrial period.

After having a look around the beach and learning how it has changed through time with different inhabitants we were then given clear bags and told to try and find our own items.

We found a variety of items during the beachcomb from ceramics, beer bottles from London, fossils and different types of slate and stone. The items found today along with others from previous beachcombs with Swansea Museum will be kept and made into a mosaic for public viewing in the future.

Beachcombing on Swansea bay with Llanrhidian Women's Institute and the Gurnos Men's Community First group.
Beachcombing on Swansea bay with Llanrhidian Women's Institute and the Gurnos Men's Community First group.
Beachcombing on Swansea bay with Llanrhidian Women's Institute and the Gurnos Men's Community First group.
Beachcombing on Swansea bay with Llanrhidian Women's Institute and the Gurnos Men's Community First group.

 

Swansea Museum are currently working on a project called ‘The Lost Treasures of Swansea Bay’, which is funded by the help of the ‘Saving Treasures; Telling Stories’ project and you can read about the last walk I attended with them HERE. Saving Treasures is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which is acquiring archaeological objects for local and national collections and providing training for heritage professionals and volunteers.

By Ieuan Donovan, Work Placement Student

I’m currently studying for an MSc in Wildlife and Conservation Management at the University of South Wales and as part of this course opted to undertake a Work Based Learning Project within the Estates Department at St Fagans. Throughout my time on the work placement I have been able to take part in a number of jobs from clearing deadwood and brash, to hedge laying and delivering firewood to the historical buildings around the site. The variety of roles I’ve been able to do has meant that I’ve had a good time working at the museum. I’ve also enjoyed being able to partake in practical jobs away from an office and away from assignments. Although a welcome break from desk based work it’s been a great way of incorporating theoretical knowledge with practical application and implementation of specific management plans. The work placement has also opened up an avenue for me to pursue my dissertation research project using the museum grounds.

Last Friday we attended the Torfaen Treasure Day at Pontypool Museum, where the latest treasure finds from the Trevethin and Henllys area were presented.

The treasure included a decorative gold finger-ring from the late 16th or early 17th century, as well as Bronze Age artefacts, which date back 3,000 years. The Bronze Age hoard consists of five Bronze Age artefacts, including three socketed axes and two spearheads and these will be the first Bronze Age items to be displayed at Pontypool Museum.

Adam Gwilt is about to present treasure finds. This treasure find is a hoard of Bronze Age artefacts.
Adam Gwilt, Principal Curator (Prehistory) at Amgueddfa Cymru, presenting the Trevethin Hoard.

Rt Hon. Lord Paul Murphy of Torfaen, President of the Torfaen Museum Trust, welcomed in the event warming up the audience before presentations from Adam Gwilt and Rhianydd Biebrach from Amgueddfa Cymru and local MP Mr Nick Thomas-Symonds followed.

The newly declared treasure was presented to the museum by Adam Gwilt, the Principal Curator of Prehistory in the History & Archaeology Department. Adam talked about the history of the treasure and provided background information so the audience could gain a further understanding of the items. Since the items were acquired by Pontypool Museum with grant funding from the Saving Treasures;Telling Stories Project Dr Rhianydd Biebrach, the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project Officer discussed the key messages and aims behind the project.

Rhianydd Biebrach, who is the project officer of the Saving Treasures Telling Stories project at the National Museum Wales, is giving a presentation about the project.
Rhianydd Biebrach, project officer for Saving Treasures Telling Stories at Amgueddfa Cymru, giving a presentation about the project.

The Saving Treasures; Telling Stories project is currently working with the University of South Wales assisting student journalists for a two-week work placement where they can use their journalistic writing and interviewing skills to help tell the stories behind items. We thought it would be a good idea to send them up to Pontypool Museum before the event to talk to the curators at the museum and the finders of the treasure.

They spoke to Gareth Wileman, a metal detectorist in the Pontypool area who found the hoard back in November 2014, and asked him how he felt about his discovery being exhibited. While we would have loved to hear from Simon Harrison, the finder of the gold finger-ring, he wasn’t available at the time so a potential phone interview looks likely for the next batch of students.

The students are still currently working on this project and will provide us with written and video content of their interview - so keep your eyes peeled on our Twitter and Facebook account for more content and videos coming your way!

The hoard is being acquired by Pontypool Museum with grant funding from the Saving Treasures;Telling Stories Project. This project, funded via the Collecting Cultures programme of the Heritage Lottery Fund, is acquiring archaeological objects discovered by members of the public for public museum collections across Wales. The project is also encouraging communities to engage with their pasts and portable archaeological heritage, by funding a programme of community archaeology projects led by staff in museums throughout Wales.

 

Standing on what felt like the top of the world and slowly regaining our breaths back, they were soon taken away again when looking at the awe inspiring landscape of Whiteford Sands in Swansea Bay.

Swansea Museum is working on a project called ‘The Lost Treasures of Swansea Bay’, which is funded by the help of the ‘Saving Treasures; Telling Stories’ project. Saving Treasures is funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund which is acquiring archaeological objects for local and national collections, providing training for heritage professionals and volunteers and engaging local communities with their pasts.

Last week the museum teamed up with young people from Swansea YMCA, The National Trust and The Glamorgan Gwent Archaeology Trust to hike around Whiteford Sands in the Gower area of Swansea Bay. This walk was intended to give us an understanding of the changing landscape of Swansea Bay since the Bronze Age.

The images shows a variety of people at the bottom of a hill in a woodland area; they are about to go on a long walk.

Young people from Swansea YMCA, The National Trust and The Glamorgan Gwent Archaeology Trust members are gearing up for a hike in the Whiteford sands area in Swansea.

The Landscape

Corinne Benbow is a National Trust Ranger and she led the first half of the walk up a very steep hill in order to get the best viewpoints overlooking the beach and woodland areas.

Corinne explained that what we could see was quite unspoiled, she said: “You’re looking at quite an ancient landscape and it wouldn’t have changed that much since the Bronze Age.”

Pointing over towards the coastline, Corinne spoke about how the landscape has slightly changed over the years.

This piece of land is actually brand new and doesn’t belong to anyone as it has only appeared over the last twenty-five years; that’s because of the sand being washed in and building up. The new dunes get washed away and are then re-built back up; so it’s always shifting, but is basically the same as it’s been for thousands of years.”

This is a picture fromon top of a hill. You can see the beach, the sea and a woodland area.

The view of the Bay from above

Hidden Secrets

After a lunch break and water painting session of the landscape, we continued our walks through the woods, over the sand dunes and onto the pebbly beach. It was here where Paul Huckfield, an archaeologist from the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeology Trust, revealed some hidden treasures found on the beach.

Paul said: “We are currently stood on a prehistoric ground surface which was originally a forest. This dates back to the late Mesolithic, early Neolithic age at around 5000-4000 BC. As you can see the remains of the trees around you are still here.”

At a first glance you would assume the trees were drift wood washed ashore, but they were in fact, alder trees almost 7000 years old. Paul explained how the landscape which is currently a sandy beach area would have actually been a woodland area similar to the one we walked through. 

Why were they a secret?

Nobody knew these 7000 year old trees even existed until they were found between 2010- 2012 when the beach lost some of its sand and the trees came to light.

The images shows a beach on a spring day. It is a rocky beach which dates back to the mesolithic era.

Standing on Prehistoric ground surface.

The Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project is a partnership project between Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, The Federation of Museums and Art Galleries of Wales (The FED) and the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru) promoting the portable archaeological heritage of Wales through acquiring finds made by the public. The project secured Heritage Lottery Grant funding in October 2014 through the Collecting Cultures programme and runs for five years.

It will help Swansea Museum to acquire and safeguard items of portable heritage with special significance to Swansea Bay for the people of Swansea. It will also enable the museum to work with local communities to engage with and explore these treasures and to find out more about Swansea Bay

Amgueddfa Cymru - National Museum Wales and The Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project have teamed up with the University of South Wales and students on the journalism course.

Working in the Archaeology and Communications departments, using their media and journalistic knowledge, the students will be bringing to life significant archaeological discoveries and telling the stories behind the items and the people who found them. There will be a series of two week work placements from a variety of students.

Here’s what our most recent students had to say about their time working on Saving Treasures; Telling Stories:

Our experience working on Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project

Coming from a journalism background we were anticipating our placement with the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories project and had a lot of questions of what to expect.

What is Archaeology?

What do Archaeologists do?

And what is the Saving Treasures Project?

On our first day Rhianydd, Mark, Adam and the rest of the team were more than welcoming which is always reassuring when on a work placement. They spent the day showing us some mesmerising objects found during archaeological excavations or by metal detectorists and then teaching us everything we needed to know (which wasn’t easy as there are a lot to remember!) It was fascinating for us to begin to understand objects dating back thousands of years ago and their significance to our lives at present.

Here is where the fun started.

What we did

The rest of our first week we travelled around South Wales to places such as Swansea and Brecon to start recording our interviews about some of the most recently discovered objects.

It was a gloomy and rainy Tuesday but nevertheless we travelled to Brecon to meet with Nigel Blackamore and the team at Brecknock Museum (they even gave us biscuits!) who let us spend the day interviewing in their library.

We interviewed a local metal detectorist as well as a married couple who, over forty years ago, found a dagger in Swansea Bay and have kept it ever since for good luck and as a symbol of their relationship. An earlier blog about the Swansea Bay dagger can be found here.

We also spoke to Nigel about the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the future of museums; as a journalist it’s all about telling stories and getting important information to the public.

Roqib also had the chance of fulfilling a lifetime dream of holding a metal detector. (He was really excited).

A man is holding a metal detector in a court yard with a smile on his face

Our student journalist, Roqib, is happy to give metal detecting a go.

Putting our journalism skills to work

On the Wednesday we went to Swansea Museum to meet with Emma Williams and Phil Treseder about Swansea’s involvement with the Saving Treasures Project and what their aims are for the future of Swansea Museum. We also interviewed collector Geoff Archer, who recently found a very rare Bronze Age mould for making axe heads.

To spend the week interviewing people who are so passionate about preserving the archaeology and heritage of South Wales for future generations, in whatever form they can, was an honour and a privilege and certainly put our journalistic interview techniques to the test.

Over the following week we were able to edit the interviews and write our articles with the overlooking expertise of Catrin Taylor and the Communications department; again linking in our journalism skills to help tell the stories of the people and objects.

A thank you from us

We’ve had a wonderful and insightful two weeks and we’ve met some incredible people during this time. The support we’ve received to create the best possible content has been outstanding and we now know what archaeology is, what an archaeologist does and what the Saving Treasures Project is!

We can’t wait to continue to work closely with the Saving Treasures, Telling Stories project and follow its success until 2019. Thank you to everyone who we have met and worked with!

@A_Dickinson_

@MonsurMedia