An Cardiff archaeological dig is hoping to uncover the remains of a 2,000 year old Iron Age settlement.

The dig, at Caerau's Trelai Park, will be carried out by the Caerau and Ely Rediscovering (CAER) Heritage Project, a partnership between Cardiff University, community group Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE), local schools, residents and others.

Trelai Park is located just half a mile from Caerau Hillfort, a significant national heritage site where archaeologists and locals have previously discovered artefacts of Neolithic, Iron Age, Roman and medieval origins.

“After a challenging two years during the pandemic, we are excited to be back out conducting an archaeological dig at Trelai Park, an area steeped in history, even though it’s perhaps more well-known nowadays as a green space popular with sports clubs, dog walkers and families," said Dr Oliver Davis, CAER Heritage Project Co-director at Cardiff University.

The dig will focus on an area of the park just south of Ely Roman Villa, a structure excavated 100 years ago by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the first lecturer in Archaeology at Cardiff University.

Roman villas were country houses, often large and extravagant.

Sir Mortimer was able to demonstrate that the Ely villa was built around AD130, approximately 60 years after the Roman conquest of Britain, and at least 100 years after the Caerau hillfort was abandoned.

CAER Heritage Project believes that the parkland nearby could be home to an older "contained settlement".

Dr Davis added: "Although we don’t have confirmation of what lies beneath the land yet, the enclosed settlement is typical of many Late Iron Age sites in the region.

"It is tempting to suggest that this site, as well as the nearby Ely Roman Villa, may well have origins in the Iron Age, possibly around the time Caerau Hillfort was abandoned.

"Is it an earlier ‘precursor’ to the villa, perhaps the residence of an important family who moved out of the hillfort?

"Or could it be part of the villa estate, possibly the homestead of estate workers or even an industrial complex?

"Whatever we find, we hope as many people as possible will get involved so they can learn about the fascinating past behind this part of Cardiff.”

In the early 20th century, Trelai Park was the location of Ely Racecourse. The last race to be held there took place in 1939, and was won by a horse named Grasshopper.

The park has also been used as an airfield, and was a barrage balloon site during the Second World War.

Pupils from Cardiff West Community High School, which adjoins Trelai Park, will be taking part in the dig.

Four young people from the school have received CAER Heritage scholarships, which provide support to help students onto a degree programme.

Cardiff West Community High School Headteacher Martin Hulland said: “We are delighted to be partnering up with ACE and Cardiff University again to explore the rich heritage of our part of the city.

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"Year 7 pupils will be actively involved in the dig and they hope to assist in the discovery of a range of exciting artefacts.

“We would like to thank Cardiff University for their outstanding support for the school. These experiences and the CAER Scholarships make a huge difference to our students.”

Last year, a new £650,000 community and visitor attraction - The Hidden Hillfort Community Heritage Centre – was opened near Caerau Hillfort.

For more details or to get involved in the dig, you can call 02920 003132 or email to caerheritage@aceplace.org.

You can also visit the project website here.

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