Once upon a time in the West

Yesterday I was in the National Museum Wales in Cardiff for the launch of ‘Neaderthals in Wales’, the final report on the excavations at Pontnewydd and the other Elwy Valley caves directed by Professor Stephen Aldhouse-Green. This is very much earlier prehistory than most of the rest of the blog (around 225 000 BP in the Marine Isotope Stage 7 interglacial for the hominid occupation) but pulls together lots of the same themes about recurrent use of places, the special character of caves and underground spaces and, in this case, the very beginnings of mortuary ritual. Stephen has used the book to put a lot of important scientific analysis, of geology, geomorphology, human and animal remains, absolute dating and artefact taphonomy, within a personal and poetic appreciation of the meaning of the site.

I’ve worked on Pontnewydd material since I had my first job in the National Muesum in 1989 – stalagmite samples were a big part of my working life in those days – and Elizabeth Walker and I worked on the editing of the final volume alongside Stephen so we are all very pleased and proud to see the final results of all the hard work available from Oxbow Books it was also great to catch up with lots of former colleagues. Oxbow also have a new volume out on cave archaeology edited by Knut-Andreas Bergsvik and  Robin Skeates called Caves in Context. I’ve just ordered a copy of this and will post a review once it arrives.


  1. Carol Perry said:

    Hello Rick
    I am writing to ask if I can be of any help with the dig at Whitewell, or any other archaeology you are involved with. I am a middle aged, primary school teacher with limited experience of digs, but I have done participated in those at Hungate and with the Forest of Bowland AONB at Stocks. I’m keen to get involved in any other such projects in my area (or beyond!).

  2. Hi Carol

    That would be great if you wanted to get invovled at Whitewell, especially if you can make your own way to site as space on the minibus is always the limiting factor. At the moment I think the best week would be the last one, starting Monday 23rd July. If you email me directly on rpeterson@uclan.ac.uk and we can sort out the details.


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