Mark Lodwick is Living in the Past

Mark Lodwick, Archaeological Photographer
Cardiff University

I consider myself fortunate to have been

I consider myself lucky to have been working on the archaeology of Wales (mostly) for the last 25 years. I graduated from Cardiff University in 1992, by which point I was keen to take a break from academia and archaeology. I spent the next 18 months volunteering with homeless people in and around Cardiff. I was then tempted into volunteering for an excavation of a Neanderthal cave site in North Wales run by the National Museum of Wales. I did not realise it, but the excavation provided the footing for my work over the coming years. I was subsequently invited to undertake post excavation work at the museum and began to be offered opportunities to work with the National Museum on a number of short term contracts and fieldwork projects including working to record the timbers of a medieval ship excavated at Magor Pill on the Gwent Levels, Monmouthshire and supervising an excavation within Caerleon Roman fort, Newport. 

Fieldwork at Llanbedergoch, Anglesey, showing the excavation of burials in the upper fills of an Early Medieval ditch.
© National Museum of Wales

In 1994 I was invited to join a small team assembled by Dr Mark Redknap to assess an area of farmland at Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey where a significant Early Medieval coin hoard and a number of Viking Age finds had been recovered by two metal detectorists. That year’s geophysical survey and subsequent ground-truthing established the presence of an Early Medieval enclosure around a spring and identified the first Hiberno-Norse settlement in Wales. I spent the next 12 summers on Anglesey supervising the excavations conducted by the museum and working alongside Cardiff University student placements.  

Archie Gillespie, Metal Detectorist and Field Archaeologist
© National Museum of Wales

Working with the metal detector finders at Llanbedrgoch and in Working with the metal detector finders at Llanbedrgoch and in particular, forging a friendship with Archie Gillespie, provided me with an understanding of how members of the public can become engaged with archaeology. I was beginning to understand how conducting archaeological work with diverse public participation is hugely rewarding and of mutual benefit, ensuring a more rounded and diverse team and embedding an appreciation of the rigours of the archaeological process to participating members of the public. These principles were reinforced by an inspirational colleague at the museum, Kenneth Brassil, who ensured that contemporary, as well as past communities are put at the heart of archaeological discovery. 

Mark Lodwick investigating the site of a Late Bronze Age hoard with the finder, Alan Jenkins

An appreciation of these skills enabled me to move across to the Portable Antiquities scheme (PAS) in Wales, where I have worked for the last 18 years. PAS work is public-faced, working alongside finders to ensure that archaeological information is captured and shared for all. Working with PAS enabled me to respond to significant discoveries made in Wales, with the support of colleagues in archaeology at the National Museum.

Mark Lodwick with Steve McGrory, the finder of the ‘midden’ site at Llanmaes during the initial visit while cows feasted on our tapes!
© National Museum of Wales
Tim Fowler, Llanmaes resident, excavating and sharing some of the finds with the community.
© National Museum of Wales

Of particular note, was the discovery and excavation of the Later Prehistoric feasting site at Llanmaes in the Vale of Glamorgan. Nine excavation seasons at Llanmaes revealed a significant Bronze Age landscape where communities lived and buried their dead.

A Middle Bronze Age building at Llanmaes with Cardiff University students as posts and an excavated cremation burial.
© National Museum of Wales
A school visits the Llanmaes excavations and re-enacts some of the rituals with their pre-made cauldrons
© National Museum of Wales

Later, through the Late Bronze and Iron Ages, people began to arrive to feast and carefully deposited the extensive material culture from these gatherings within a midden, which included pig bones, pottery and cauldrons and axe fragments. The excavation has produced a highlight archaeological find: a tooth from a Great White shark, heavily-worn through handling before being carefully deposited in a post-hole of a Middle Bronze Age building and excavated by Archie, now a skilled field archaeologist. 

Tooth from a Great White Shark excavated from a post hole of the building pictured above
© National Museum of Wales

In recent years there has been less opportunity to conduct fieldwork, although internationally important discoveries continue to be identified, such as the recent discovery of an Iron Age chariot burial in Pembrokeshire – the first recorded from Southern Britain. So, when I was offered an opportunity to supervise students on Cardiff University excavations of an Iron Age hillfort in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany, I jumped at the opportunity of a different archaeological adventure. 

Excavations at Piepenkopf Hillfort, Germany
Excavations at Piepenkopf Hillfort, Germany
Excavations at Piepenkopf Hillfort, Germany

Recording finds for PAS and site recording over the years has provided me with the experience of archaeological photography and enabled me to start a new role back with Cardiff University as the photographer in the School of History, Archaeology and Religion, while I continue to work with PAS but now on a part-time basis. 


Pits, pottery and prehistoric people in southern Romania

Dr Steve Mills, Senior Lecturer
Cardiff University

Cardiff University’s research, over a 20-year period, into the Neolithic (6000-3600 BC) settlement in Romania has stimulated new interpretations, artwork, workshops and museum exhibitions and created new audiences for this important period in the human past. Archaeological research, focussed on the village of Măgura, Romania, has transformed the understanding of the environmental and social contexts of Europe’s first farmers and resulted in participation in a major EU-funded project that combined archaeology and art as a medium for engaging public interest in their past. The project involved invited artists visiting Romania and producing original pieces for exhibition in the regional museum, and it enhanced local education practice through a series of workshops in the village school. The research programme also provided material for the development of a new archaeological exhibition at the museum, creating an opportunity to present the prehistoric heritage of Măgura to the local community and a heritage resource to encourage cultural tourism.  A new phase of research around the village of Poiana, in the Danube Valley, Romania, aims to better understand the environmental and landscape context during the Mesolithic period leading up to the appearance of the first farmers. We hope the new research at Poiana will contribute to further understanding the presence and lifeways of Mesolithic and Neolithic communities in the region and the river environments they inhabited. 

Southern Romania Archaeological Project (SRAP)

The Neolithic in Romania (6000-3600 BC) was a dynamic period in prehistory when people introduced domestic species of plant (wheat and barley) and animals (sheep, goat, cattle and pig) into Europe. These early farmers and herders systematically modified the landscape by constructing pit dwellings, and then living in villages densely packed with upstanding rectangular houses; they made a wide range of stone tools and ceramic pottery and figurines. Although all phases of the Neolithic in Romania have deep histories of research the main interest has been the developed late Neolithic, monumental, settlement mounds and cemeteries. The critical earliest phases of the Neolithic elsewhere in Romania have been under-researched. Cardiff University’s research at Măgura–Buduiasca, the Southern Romania Archaeological Project (SRAP 1998-2005), sought to address this imbalance by examining the first appearance of pottery, semi-sedentism and the domestication of plants and animals. SRAP was coordinated by Douglass Bailey (Cardiff University 1993 – 2008) and Steve Mills (Cardiff University 2003 – current) in partnership with the Teleorman County Museum, Alexandria, Romania, (Dr P. Mirea) and the Romanian National Historical Museum, Bucureşti (Dr. R. Andreescu). 

Southern Romania Archaeological Project (SRAP)

SRAP studied prehistoric land-use, settlement patterns and river dynamics around Măgura village, in the Teleorman River Valley southern Romania. Within this programme of research SRAP identified, dated and excavated the previously unknown early Neolithic (6000-5000 BC) site of Măgura-Buduiasca. Research also established a prehistoric fluvial chronology critical for understanding the interplay between changing dynamics of the Teleorman River and the formation and preservation of the archaeological record. This research has helped re-energise studies of the environmental and social contexts surrounding the appearance and development of the earliest farming communities in southern Romania contributing to the broader study of the transition from hunting and gathering to farming within Europe. 

To better understand the location, form and prehistoric use of early Neolithic sites, the project methodology used intensive field walking, soil studies, plant and pollen analysis, excavation, archaeological survey, radiocarbon dating, pottery analyses, and human and animal bone analyses. In 2002 SRAP was awarded the Romanian Ministry of Culture’s “Radulescu Prize” for outstanding contribution to Romanian Prehistoric Archaeology. 

Steve Mills doing some fieldwork in Poiana, 2019

SRAP’s research on changing river dynamics has produced the best dated sequence in the Lower Danube Basin. This work provides a model for the likely influence of river processes and hydrological variability on the behaviour and resource choices of prehistoric communities and the effects of river erosion, flooding and sedimentation on the preservation and visibility of the archaeological record within river valleys. Furthermore, it contributes to the broader, increasingly precise, knowledge of European and global patterns of (rapid) climate change, flooding events, erosion and alluviation. 

Based on its research reputation, SRAP was invited to participate (2008-2011) in an EU-funded arts engagement project. The resulting Măgura Past & Present project used SRAP’s research, data and archaeological finds on the early Neolithic and on river dynamics as the inspiration and resource base. The project’s participants (64 from Măgura, 8 from the local museum, 51 from Romania, 27 from Europe) conducted a series of individual and group activities in and around Măgura and in the county museum to observe, document and (re)create the (pre)history of the village. Nine artists (from Romania, Europe and the USA) were invited to work in residence in Măgura and the museum and to coordinate workshops at the village school. These residencies encouraged the artists to explore and develop new relationships between art, archaeology, heritage and education. 

Art and archaeology workshops (including pottery making, replicating prehistoric art, representing river environments) at the village school in 2010 introduced school children, teachers and parents to SRAP research on early farmers and to concepts of local heritage and landscape preservation and presentation. The workshops enhanced the educational remit of the school by providing access to new resources and expertise and inspired students and teachers to learn more about their local heritage. Outputs from the workshops provided material for an exhibition at the museum and a local history exhibition at the school enabling the participants to actively contribute to the study and presentation of their local heritage. 

SRAP research and excavated material provided the foundation for designing and building a new permanent early Neolithic exhibition and multimedia learning environment in the museum. This opened in 2011 and is the museum’s first permanent archaeological exhibition enhancing its visitor attraction and its educational potential. A temporary exhibition of outputs from the workshops and art residencies opened between November 2010 and June 2011. Combined with media coverage, this helped raise awareness of the artists’ work and of Măgura’s heritage to local and visiting audiences and in promoting and enhancing the museum’s programme of engagement with local communities. 

SRAP research in the Teleorman River valley has demonstrated the benefit of an alluvial archaeology approach for better understanding the relationships between fluvial dynamics, sedimentation and the identification and preservation of the archaeological record. Building on this, a new phase of research (2013-present) around Poiana has identified surface lithic scatters that contain a wide range of worked pieces including cores, flakes, blade fragments and importantly a number of ‘bullet’ cores. The ‘bullet’ cores may indicate a Mesolithic presence in this area of the Danube Valley. These lithic scatters have the potential to provide important new evidence to help further our understanding of human-river interactions in the region during the early to mid-Holocene (9500-5500 BC) immediately before and during the transformation from hunter-gatherers to Neolithic herding and farming communities at around 6000 BC. 

First permanent Archaeological exhibit – based on evidence from SRAP!

SRAP funded by The British Academy, The Society of Antiquaries of London, Cardiff University, The Romanian Ministry of Culture, Teleorman County Council and the National Historical Museum of Romania. 

Măgura Past & Present funded by Art-Landscape Transformations Project, Culture Programme 2007-2013 grant 2007-4230. 

Poiana project funded by Society of Antiquaries of London, Cardiff University.