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Archaeological dig unearths signs of feast

Remains of Lord Rhys’s castle uncovered

Evidence of ‘high status’ feasting was unearthed during an archaeological dig at Cardigan Castle – the site of the first eisteddfod in 1176.

And excavations also revealed medieval structures that are strongly believed to have belonged to the original castle of Lord Rhys – the first castle to be built in stone by a Welshman.

Lord Rhys celebrated the completion of his castle with a musical and poetical celebration in Cardigan during Christmas 1176 – now known as the first eisteddfod.

With the restoration project now complete, the 200-plus page archaeology report has just been delivered, one of the final documents before the £12m grant period comes to a close.
The detailed report notes all the thousands of finds that were unearthed at the castle – including animal bones, pottery, coins, jewellery, arrow heads and musket balls.
The finds give a fascinating glimpse into medieval life at the castle – a huge building with an inner and outer ward, butchered animals suggesting feasts and celebrations, hunting dogs and eagles plus evidence of conflict. One find – a shell which once contained paint – led archaeologists to surmise that it was used for some kind of painted interior decoration, possibly a chapel.
“The castle changed hands with violence many times in the medieval period and once played host to King Edward I of England, and so this paint could date from any one of the many rebuilding and consolidations of the period,” says report author Nigel Page.
And he added: “Significant new medieval structures were recorded included one that appeared to reflect the building or rebuilding of the castle in stone and mortar during the later 12th century, an event that was celebrated on site by the holding of the first eisteddfod.”
The large number of animal bones – including a dolphin skull, deer bones, cattle and birds such as duck, bustard and crane – point to feasts. “All of the remains from this site are from food remains and along with the large meat birds show high status meals were consumed here,” states the report.
The medieval structures – which also included an arch discovered beneath the hallway in Castle Green House – were recorded and then reburied.
Mr Page concluded: “The renovation works on the house and gardens have brought them back to life and in the process provided an unparalleled opportunity to investigate this iconic and hugely important site.”
Anyone interested in taking a look at the report please contact the castle office.