A nine day excavation to investigate the remains of the deserted medieval village at St Ishmaels, Ferryside,
started on September 6th. Local volunteers are working with the Dyfed Archaeological Trust to record
the remains of the interior of one of the buildings and other remains along the coastline, which are
being eroded by the sea. It is hoped to determine the dates of one of the buildings, its function and
why it was abandoned. The work is being funded by Cadw.
Volunteers Caralinda, Arwyn and Owen, with Hubert clearing vegetation from the building
A proud Owen having cleared the doorway and steps into the building
DAY 1: Tuesday 6th September
Although dark clouds threatened heavy rain all day, we got away dry! The start of the day was a combination
of gardening, removing brambles and grass from the site area, and hard work moving sand from across the top
of one of the buildings at the site to try and expose the floors. The hard work continued into the afternoon,
when we realised that there was a greater depth of sand than we had anticipated! The doorway and steps into
the building were just being exposed by the end of the day. More sand to move tomorrow!
The site looking towards Llansteffan
Rubble, with edging stones and clay
DAY 2: Wednesday 7th September
The day was mostly spent removing more sand from across the footprint of the building. A layer
of stone rubble has been revealed across the southern half of the building. This may be the remains of a collapsed
wall. To the east of this rubble, a thin line of vertical edging stones has been exposed. At the northern end
of the building there is still more sand to remove, but we do seem to be getting to the top of the archaeological
Menna, Arwyn, Hubert and Owen surveying and drawing the building
DAY 3: Thursday 8th September
Today was quite wet, but the team still managed to get lots done. A plan was made of the rubble
and edging stones and written records were made. A start was then made on removing the stone rubble, which revealed
layers of fine sand below. It is probable that these sands cover the floors of the building. The front of the
doorway into the building was cleared of debris, revealing the partial remains of wall foundations on either
Hazel and Caralinda excavating the pit
Menna, Martin and Owen removing more sand around the doorway to the building
DAY 4: Friday 9th September
A series of archaeological features had been noted at the base of the sand dunes to the south of the building
we have been excavating. Today these were investigated and partially excavated by Hazel and Caralinda. A pit
containing stone rubble and a layer of burnt material was excavated first. Excavation of the second, earlier
feature was started, from which pottery has been recovered.
Menna, Martin and Owen continued to dig down through the sands at the northern end of the
building. A second area of collapsed rubble was exposed, possibly from the end wall of the building. More remnants
of a stone slab surface within the doorway to the structure has also been revealed.
Caralinda, Hazel, Owen and Hubert excavating the pits
Sue and Menna, with Linney the dog, revealing the possible clay floor and wall
DAY 5: Saturday 9th September
This morning was wet, but the team braved the rain and by lunchtime we had still made good
progress. More pottery was recovered from the pits to the south of the building. It is clear that a number of
different features are present here, each representing a different period of activity. A later wall lies above
this series of features which is likely to be associated with the building being excavated.
At the northern end of the structure, progress was initially hampered by the wet conditions.
By the afternoon the team had exposed a possible clay floor layer and the wall to the north of the doorway,
with more stones suggesting a partially flagged floor. The day ended very positively with several finds, floor
layers and sunshine!
The team spread out along the sand dunes
The doorway, wall and steps
DAY 6: Sunday 11th September
A beautiful and dry day at last! The team continued to excavate the series of pits to the south of the main
excavation area. A few more finds were recovered. Another section was cleaned at the base of the sand dunes
even further to the south, in an area near further possible stone walls. A number of features were exposed and
following partial excavation, a few pottery sherds were recovered.
Further cleaning in the northern end of the building has clearly shown the steps and a partial
cobbled floor inside the doorway. The wall to the north of the doorway has also been shown to be quite substantial.
A section was excavated by Sue through the clay material bounded by the edging stones within
the building area and pottery and bone was recovered. The edging stones were shown to be neatly cut stone, which
fitted together very closely.
Hazel and Arwyn section drawing
A view of the inside of the building (note the puddles!)
DAY 7: Monday 12th September
Lots of drawing today, recording detailed profiles of the excavated sections through the pits. It seems likely
that a buried land surface is also present at the base of the dunes, which represents the original ground level
lying below the sands that covered it. Medieval pottery has been recovered from this land surface layer, suggesting
it was cultivated.
This buried land surface is absent from within the excavation area, which would be expected
as it lies within the building. The inside of the building has been proving very difficult to excavate due to
water seeping in through the sand, but today we braved the wet sand and managed to reveal more of the inside
of the structure. Layers of sand were removed, which presumably covered the building after it had been abandoned,
revealing a dark, charcoal rich layer below. We shall excavate more of this material tomorrow and hopefully
find dating evidence for the construction of the building.
The team continuing with the detail recording of the site
Owen removing two of the edging stones within the building
DAY 8 - Tuesday 13th September
Caralinda, Hazel and Owen all filled in numerous context sheets today - each context describes
in detail a single archaeological layer that has been excavated. It may be a small site, but we have a lot of
contexts, with many more to complete tomorrow.
Later in the day we removed two of the edging stones seen within the building, and excavated
further into the exposed levels. Samples for environmental analysis were taken as the main layers contained
large amounts of burnt material, so that there is a potential for charred plant remains. These can provide evidence
for the kinds of food that were eaten at the site. Pottery and bone was also recovered from these layers.
A section through part of the building (note the 'gloop')
The visit from the staff and pupils of Ysgol Meidrim
DAY 9 - Wednesday 14th September
A glorious day. With the excavation coming to a close, we spent the day digging through some
of the deeper archaeological deposits. Pottery and bone was recovered from the very base of these layers, providing
evidence for earlier phases of occupation. More environmental samples were taken of other features with the
potential for more charred plant remains and charcoal. The determination of Owen digging through some of the
wettest 'gloop' on the site has to be praised. More drawing and recording was also carried out.
We were also assisted in the morning by a visit from Ysgol Meidrim. The pupils and staff were
given a site tour to show them the medieval archaeology. It did not take long before the children could identify
the stone walls sticking out from the dunes for themselves. After the site tour we provided a crash course on
how archaeologists excavate and record sites. They were then given a some hands on experience, assisting with
the recording of a stone wall and also cleaning a section (pottery, bone and coal were all recovered).
Although the excavation officially ends today, we will still be on-site tomorrow, finishing
off the recording and backfilling.