Namibian Cultural Heritage Project

Cardiff University Phoenix Heritage, Namibian Heritage Council, University of Namibia
Summary by Dr Scott Williams on the Cardiff University Team

Challenges within Namibian Heritage

Within developing countries, such as Namibia, the challenges of identifying, managing, protecting, and sustaining Heritage Assets are substantial. However, without good baseline data this potential cannot be realised.  Namibia has a small, diverse population of 2.3 million people, comprising of more than 11 ethnic groups, spread over a country forty times the size of Wales. Throughout the land, Namibia’s diverse heritage—both tangible and intangible, natural and cultural—needs to be safeguarded and celebrated. However, assets often remain under-recognised, under-reported and at risk. 

This requirement is expressed in the Namibian sustainable development goal to cultivate good public administration and is further enshrined in the emerging Namibian National Heritage Council (NHC) Sustainable Development plan. The latter includes goals to preserve “our heritage and history, protect our traditional knowledge, and develop our language, creative and cultural endeavours as well as a series of aspirations to develop sustainable tourism”.  To do this, the NHC is seeking to enhance and extend the existing National Inventories of Heritage Assets (NIHA) geographically, culturally, and diachronically, to increase public awareness of Heritage, to monitor and control damage, and to develop Heritage focused training. 

The Phoenix Heritage Project

The Phoenix Heritage Project—generously funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund—is co-developing and co-refining existing UK best practice in heritage research and management for use within Namibia.  Working with our established partner institutions—the University of Namibia (UNAM), the National Heritage Council, the Phoenix Project, and Cadw—a team of UK and Namibian heritage academics, professionals, stakeholders, and students will work together to enhance knowledge of the existing archaeological and cultural resource to:

  • implement a sustainable asset management system to host Heritage Asset information
  • co-create a new heritage data standard list of classifications for Namibia
  • develop new strategies and skills for heritage recording and access
  • co-deliver cultural heritage training to NHC staff and UNAM students.

Whilst it has been necessary to redesign the work package—owing to the restrictions put in place due to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic—and the delivery of some intended features of the project have been delayed, the international team members have continued to work together using digital collaborative methods. Through ongoing collaborative discussions, the team have identified structural, technical, and training limitations within the present system. The construction of a cultural heritage training resource is underway that is intended to be delivered as a digital e-learning module to address issues raised thus far. The module is directed towards accessible training of both heritage professionals from the NHC and UNAM students. Additional to this, a new and robust online Heritage Data Management System is being investigated which will enable the National Heritage Council to administer and manage their portfolio of heritage assets. Further collaboration is intended through new academic research and community projects which will aim to build upon this sustainable resource.

Key Staff and Stakeholders

This important international project comprises a collaboration between three key institutions—the University of Namibia (UNAM), the National Heritage Council of Namibia (NHC), and Cardiff University (CU).

Key Cardiff University staff

  • Professor Jacqui Mulville
  • Dr Steve Mills
  • Dr Scott Williams

Key University of Namibia staff

  • Dr Gwasira Goodman

With support from Drs Amukwaya and Mufeti

Key Stakeholders

  • Ms Agnes Shiningayamwe (NHC)
  • Dr Ffion Reynolds (CADW)

Welcome to Archaeology100!

Welcome to our online celebration for Cardiff University’s Archaeology 100! Over the next week, I’m looking forward to seeing everyone’s photos, reading about your memories of student life, and seeing what you’ve accomplished since graduating – whether that was 50 years ago or last year! I know the current staff members are excited to share their current work with you throughout the week as well – many of them also Cardiff alumni! Today we are starting by sharing fun photos and memories from the past century, but first, I’d like to address our not-so-fun past.

This event marks the 100th anniversary of the Archaeology department at Cardiff University (then University of Wales). We are proud of the longevity and the legacy of the department; we are proud of the influence of our alumni on the wider discipline. However, with that, we must acknowledge that archaeology has a history of looting, colonialism, and discrimination. These unethical behaviours are woven into the very foundation of our discipline, and require a conscious effort to dismantle today. Although these issues plague the discipline beyond our university, we must take responsibility for our role in past behaviours, if we are to push the field forward from within our own department.

This week is intended as a celebration, but it is my hope that we can use this space for critical reflection too. We have come a long way from 1920, and that deserves to be recognised. But there is still work to be done. We are fortunate to have staff and students who are passionate about making archaeology and history more accessible to all, and I’m especially looking forward to sharing some of their projects throughout this week. As wonderful as they are (and they really, really are!), we cannot rely on a few individuals to do most of the work. As archaeologists, we must confront our collective past and hold our friends and colleagues accountable going forward, including archaeologists who are no longer in the heritage sector (once an archaeologist, always an archaeologist!) and those in positions of power. While this event focuses on the positive aspects of our history and legacy, we should remember what we have overcome and what we have yet to overcome (the latter of which is the topic of our December event).

I truly believe there is something special about the Archaeology department at Cardiff University. In addition to my own experiences as an undergraduate and post-graduate here, I was the one lucky enough to read all your stories and see all your pictures in preparation for this week. Community, practical teaching, and mentorship were repeated themes in the reflections I received from the alumni community. These values have sustained us for 100 years, and they will be what we take forward into the next 100 years Going forward, we will need to expand our idea of community, of mentorship, of who and what we teach. It may be challenging at times, but I don’t think any of us did archaeology because it was easy!

Finally, I hope this week is energising. I hope you come away from our celebration proud of how far we’ve come, proud of the work we are doing now, and ready to represent Cardiff Archaeology as we push the field forward some more. At a time when we are largely isolated from each other, I hope this week connects you to your Cardiff community, provides some laughs, and a place to reminisce together.

CHEERS to 100 Years!

Katie Faillace
PhD Candidate and (one of the) Arch100 Organisers

‘We dig Caerau!’ Cardiff’s Hidden Hillfort and the power of community archaeology.

Dr Dave Wyatt, Reader in Early Medieval History, Community and Engagement
Cardiff University

Caerau Hillfort surrounded by the housing estates (Crown Copyright RCAHMW)

I’d like to talk about the significance of co-producing archaeological and historical research in close partnership with communities, and to think about the ways in which valuing local heritage and the collective discovery of the past has power to create new and positive life changing opportunities for all involved.  

To illustrate this, I want to talk CAER Heritage Project (@CAERHeritage) from its humble beginnings to becoming Times Higher Education award winning, flagship civic mission and development project for both Cardiff University and our community development partners Action in Caerau and Ely (ACE) (@elycaerau).

Caerau and Ely constitute the largest social housing estate in Wales and are located on the western edge of the capital city. Home to around 26,000 people, these communities were built on manufacturing industries that thrived in the early 20th century but that collapsed throughout the 1980s and 1990s.  

As a result, these neighbourhoods face a range of significant social and economic challenges including higher than average unemployment, high levels of insecure or poorly paid work and particular challenges relating to learning, with low incomes having a negative impact on the ability of families to support educational opportunities and low numbers of young people entering into higher education.  

The Rich Heritage of Caerau and Ely

Yet these are also communities with significant assets including: strong social networks, community spirit and activism, and the skills, knowledge, experience, kindness and talent of local people.

Caerau and Ely are also communities with a remarkable heritage. From a Neolithic causewayed enclosure to a massive Iron-Age hillfort and large Roman villa, from a medieval castle, churches and deserted village, to a civil war battlefield and twentieth century estates that were at the cutting edge of a social housing revolution. The rich heritage assets of this area encapsulate over 6,000 years of Wales’ history concentrated into just 8 square kilometres. 

Action in Caerau and Ely

These many community assets are the driving force of ACE, an amazing community development organisation and key founding partner of CAER Heritage from whom we have learnt so much about the strategies and value of co-production. See 

Collage of co-production

So what is co-production you ask? It is made up of many things but essentially entails: 

  • a positive asset based approach. 
    valuing equally the contribution of all participants. 
  • project sustainability and continued or long-term involvement (trust). 
  • the development of social networks through face-to-face contact (trust). 
  • reciprocal and mutually beneficial partnerships (trust). 
  • collective effort, benefits and ‘ownership’

CAER Heritage has taken these strategies and applied them to archaeological and historical research. The project is built on objectives that were hammered out early on with ACE, local residents and Cardiff West Community High School (Cardiff West CHS) (@CardiffWestCHS). These objectives have underpinned all our activities and funding successes. They are to:  

  • raise interest in discovering and valuing local heritage.  
  • create new life and educational opportunities for people of all ages through that discovery.  
  • challenge unfounded negative perceptions and create positive stories for of Ely and Caerau. 

CAER is made up of a myriad of partnerships, friendships and collaborations including: Museum of Cardiff (@TheCardiff Story), Amgueddfa Cymru/National Museum Wales (@AmgueddfaCymru), Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust (@GGAT) and Cardiff Council (@cardiffcouncil), Glamorgan Archives (@GlamArchives), Guerilla Archaeology (@GuerillaArchae), Centre for Community Journalism (@C4CJ), Community Gateway (@CommunityGtwy), Carenza Lewis (@CarenzaLewis), Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales (@RCAHMWales) to name a few… 

In particular, artists and film-makers are hugely important to project development, especially Paul Evans (@Origin010) – who has ensured that creativity has always been central to CAER Heritage co-production, see:  


Local schools have been huge project contributors too especially Cardiff West CHS. See: 

Caer Digs

There is no better way to illustrate the power and dynamics of community co-production than through our community excavations (5 to date!)  

Caerau is one of the largest hillforts in our region, but before CAER Heritage had received almost no archaeological attention.  Geophysical surveys and excavations co-produced with local people have revealed that it was densely occupied in the Iron Age, and it was clearly an important centre hosting a powerful community.   

Community excavations have also discovered that the hillfort overlies the remains of a Neolithic causewayed enclosure.  Such sites are extremely rare and represent the earliest known examples of the enclosure of open space at a time when people were first beginning to settle down and farm the land nearly 6,000 years ago.   

So discoveries made by local people working with Cardiff University School of History, Religion and Conservation (@CUHistArchRel) archaeologists have revealed Caerau to be a monument of international significance. This place was once the power centre for the region – the original Cardiff! An important story to tell for communities that are frequently labelled as marginalised. Watch:   

CAER Heritage began as a research project funded by a series of Arts and Humanities Research Council (@ahrcpress) grants secured by the University – this allowed for community discovery and creativity, embedding academics in community contexts over time to build trust and partnerships.  

But why had it taken so long to recognise this gem of a monument & these amazing and talented communities? Why are there still no facilities, decent accessible trails or information at this remarkable place?  

Hidden Hillfort Heritage Centre

These are issues that CAER Heritage hope to remedy thanks to success in acquiring major Heritage Lottery Fund (@HeritageFundCYM) grant held by ACE in the community and that will see the co-production of a brilliant Hidden Hillfort heritage centre, trails, heritage playground (thanks to Wales and West Housing, @WWHA), information, heritage themed art, film, a VR experience in partnership with First Campus (@firstcampus) and Digichemistry (@Digichemistry).  

ALL co-produced with the remarkable communities of Caerau and Ely! See:,000-year-old-hidden-historic-site-in-cardiff

#HiddenHillfort slide

Heritage infrastructure and interpretation will integrate with further discovery of the past through ongoing co-produced research, developing new skills, building confidence, embedding research led teaching in the curriculum of Cardiff West Community High School together with Cardiff University funded scholarships for local young people and adult learners to break down barriers to higher education. See:

In these difficult days of pandemic and the challenging times to come it is essential that we recognise that Universities are an integral part of their host communities and that they have an immense responsibility to fulfill their social and civic mission.  

As we celebrate #CUarch100 let’s remember that research creates knowledge and knowledge is power. The power of archaeology, the power of community, the power of co-production means that when we come together then we can harness the potential of heritage and create new pasts…and new futures.