by Aron Mazel & George Nash
21 September 2022
She joined Cadw in 2011, the historic environment service for the Welsh Government to work as a community archaeologist in the south Wales area, directing two excavations: one in the landscape around the Neolithic site of Tinkinswood chambered tomb, followed by the first scientific excavation of St Lythan’s chambered tomb both located in the Vale of Glamorgan, south-east Wales.
Currently, she co-directs a public archaeology excavation in the multi-period landscape around the important site of Bryn Celli Ddu Neolithic passage tomb, on the island of Anglesey. Bryn Celli Ddu (The Mound in the Dark Grove), is a significant Neolithic passage tomb in north-west Wales, and sits in a landscape of rock art. Over the course of the project which started in 2015, 12 new rock art panels have been discovered and recorded using digital archaeology techniques. The project has recently been awarded a prestigious Arts and Humanities Research Council grant in collaboration with Manchester Metropolitan University, Aberystwyth University, and University of Central Lancashire to develop an augmented reality visual reconstruction using sound-art to allow visitors to experience the full history of the tomb.
Her rock art research took her to Namibia in 2017, when she was awarded a grant as part of the Welsh Government’s Wales for Africa programme, to work with the archaeology department at the University of Namibia, Windhoek. She took on an advisory role, providing support in the development of a public archaeology strategy for the university, and recommending new ways to promote sustainable tourism at the rock art sites of Twyfelfontein and Brandberg.
Her work at Cadw, and as an Honorary Research Fellow at Cardiff University, has been to combine academic and non-academic responses to heritage sites, including rock art sites. This has been achieved through commissioning new artworks, developing exhibitions, using digital archaeology techniques, and co-working with communities and specialist interest groups who make contemporary usage of rock art sites, for example by encouraging the Anglesey Druid Order to become custodians of the island’s Neolithic tombs. She is a specialist in creating large-scale outdoor arts projects in Wales, promoting heritage sites to a wide audience, many of whom have never visited heritage sites before.
She has published many academic and popular papers on rock art and prehistory, material culture, identity and worldviews. She has published articles about shamanism, Irish passage tombs, totemism and animism, and published about her excavations at Tinkinswood and St Lythan’s in the Journal of Community Archaeology and Heritage, and Archaeologia Cambrensis. In February 2016, she co-authored an article on the electrical resistance tomography (ERT) survey at Bryn Celli Ddu in the world-leading archaeological journal Antiquity with 4 colleagues from across the UK.
In 2016 and 2017, she co-authored articles about the rock art of Bryn Celli Ddu in the popular archaeology magazine Current Archaeology, and has co-authored an article on shamanism and totemism as part of the book, ‘The Neolithic of Europe: Papers in Honour of Alasdair Whittle’. She has also presented extensively at conferences and at events for museums and universities. Currently she is co-authoring a book about the results of the Bryn Celli Ddu excavations.