Caerau Hillfort is the biggest Iron Age site of its type in South Wales (and one of the biggest in Britain). However, the date remained a mystery because no substantial archaeological work had ever been carried out at the site.
Caerau sits at the base of a hill slope on the edge of Cardiff, near a part of the city known as Ely and as the modern community have taken a keen interest in the site, they invited Time Team to unlock the secrets of Iron Age Caerau.
The site consists of a substantial hilltop surrounded by multi-vallate earthworks (rings of banks and ditches) that have been cut through at the southeastern extent by a major road.
Caerau was likely a tribal capital for the Silures a powerful local people who strongly resisted Roman incursions into their land. We set out to answer some basic questions; was the site a tribal capital as had been assumed? Was there a major settlement in the interior just waiting to be discovered? Our site director, Francis Pryor, couldn't wait to get stuck in and he would have a little help.
The hillfort is a huge site that we couldn't hope to fully investigate over three days. The local community and local schools were ready and willing to get their trowels out. This was lucky for us as the only way to find uncover the date, extent and condition of a site, is by opening large trenches and, that requires plenty of labour.
Francis was hoping that we'd be looking at dense occupation in the Iron Age with up to 200 roundhouses in the interior of the site. Of course, this being Time Team, it wasn't quite that simple. Caerau had a few surprises for us, the first being rather unexpected geophysical survey results...