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Home » Looking Back » Archaeology

What is Archaeology?

Archaeology can be defined as ‘the study of people in the past, through the remains they leave behind’. These remains can be almost anything – from burials and weapons to bits of broken pot, stone tools or Second World War defences.

Some of these remains, like the Iron Age promontory forts which line the Pembrokeshire Coast, are very substantial, and form distinctive landscape features even today. At the other end of the scale are the scatters of tiny flint pieces which mark out where prehistoric people made their tools and sat around their campfires. All of these different types of archaeology contribute to the historic environment of the Park.

Students working on an excavation at West Angle Bay.

The historic environment is part of what makes the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park such a special place. People have lived and worked in the park for thousands of years, and have shaped the way it looks today. The National Park Authority has a duty to take care of the special qualities of the Park – including the archaeology. We aim to understand the Park’s history, to protect it and to help people to enjoy it.

We do this in a variety of ways. Our Culture and Heritage Manager Phil Bennett and our building conservation officer Rob Scourfield, are on hand to offer advice to people working with historic sites and features. We try to encourage people to enjoy their archaeology – through special themed walks as part of the activities and events programme, through annual events in National Archaeology Week (normally the third week in July) and through managing Carew Castle and Tidal Mill and Castell Henllys Iron Age Village. The National Park also has a continuing programme of work investigating the Park’s history and archaeology.

Culture and Heritage Manager Phil Bennett with aurochs horn discovered at Whitesands Bay.
Culture and Heritage Manager Phil Bennett with aurochs horn discovered at Whitesands Bay.

The National Park’s archaeology is not just about individual sites – it is also about whole landscapes. A good example of this is the Cleddau estuary where, until the 19th Century, there was a thriving lime industry. Limestone was extracted from small quarries at the heads of the tidal channels, and loaded onto boats, known as sloops. These boats would then carry the limestone up the coast to North Pembrokeshire where it was unloaded, and burnt in kilns to produce lime for the fields.

As you walk through the Cleddau Estuary today, you can see faint remains of this industry – a small, flattened platform where limestone was stored ready for loading, a slipway or an artificially straightened water channel. None of these features are particularly significant or interesting on their own, but together they form a distinctive landscape which tells a story. Stories like these help us to put together the different pieces of Pembrokeshire’s past.