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Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Aberystwyth Young Archaeologists recreate 1930s dig photo: Aberystwyth Young Archaeologists step back in time

Diggers from the Young Archaeologists' Club at Pen Dinas hillfort, Aberystwyth in 2013 (photograph taken by  Paul Harries)
Aberystwyth’s Young Archaeologists’ Club recently stepped back in time nearly 80 years to recreate an historic view of excavators working on Pen Dinas hillfort above the town, in the years before the Second World War. This is the first time people have stood in the footsteps of the 1930s archaeologists, complete with similar clothing and tools, to reconstruct a view of the hillfort excavations originally taken on a summer’s day in 1934.

On a walk organised by John Ibbotson and Paul Harries for the local branch of the Young Archaeologists’ Club, and guided by Dr Toby Driver of the Aberystwyth-based Royal Commission, the challenge to stand in the footprints of pioneering archaeologists was too good to resist. With Anna Evans of Ceredigion Museum providing authentic tools and clothing from the museum’s handling collection to complete the picture, the Young Archaeologists got to feel what life was like for local workmen in the 1930s. Donning shirts, over-trousers, flat caps and long-handled spades in the summer heat was quite a challenge. Young Archaeologist Sam Williams completed the picture, taking the place of Professor Forde with waistcoat and tie, round spectacles and clutching a panama hat.

The original photograph forms part of the 1930s Pen Dinas excavation archive held by the National Monuments Record of Wales in Aberystwyth, and shows Professor Forde visiting the diggers as they excavated one of the main gateways into the Iron Age hillfort. It was not too difficult to find where the original diggers had once stood, but the background view of the National Library of Wales and Llanbadarn Fawr had changed quite a lot in eight decades.

Diggers at Pen Dinas hillfort, Aberystwyth, in 1934, NPRN:92236 (Crown Copyright RCAHMW)
Toby Driver added: ‘Reconstructing this 1930s view with original clothing and tools posed a real challenge to all involved but with the help of the Ceredigion Museum, and the patience of the children, we were all amazed at the result. It really has been like stepping back in time!’

Anyone wanting to join the Young Archaeologists should contact John Ibbotson via the Ceredigion Museum. The original excavation photographs of Pen Dinas, Aberystwyth, can be searched for on the Royal Commission’s online database .

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