DR MARTIN BATES and a team of research staff from the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David (UWTSD) in Lampeter are currently examining a large red deer skull and antlers that are believed to be around 4000 years old.
The skull was first spotted on the beach at Borth, Ceredigion by Julien Culham and Sharon Davies-Culham in early April. Rather than attempting to remove the skull from the beach, they reported it to the Royal Commission in Aberystwyth who in turn alerted UWTSD’s Dr Martin Bates who has been working in Borth for many years.
“This is a wonderful discovery that really brings the forest and its environs to light,” says Dr Bates.
“The ‘unhelpful’ tides during the two weeks since the discovery meant that no progress could be made in recovering the find. Then last Friday, an attempt was made to relocate the skull, but even at low tide, the area of beach containing the find remained under 1m of water.
“Concerns about the possibility that bad weather may cause extensive movement of sand and gravel on the sea bed – resulting in either covering up the find or damaging it – meant that we decided to attempt to relocate the find beneath the water,” continues Dr Bates.
“This was only possible because the original site was photographed and an approximate position could be calculated from this information. The seabed was searched methodically by feel and touch until, remarkably, the skull was relocated. Its position was recorded and the find removed for cleaning and recording. Further investigation of the find spot will be made during the next set of low tides in early May,” continues Dr Bates.
The find comes from a large channel cut through the well-known fossil forest preserved at Borth.
Previously this channel yielded the bones of a large auroch, an extinct form of large wild cattle that once lived in Europe. This was discovered in the 1960’s but has subsequently been lost to academic study.
The forest and peat deposits either side of this channel date to between about 6000 and 4000 years ago – the time of the last hunter gatherers and the earliest farmers in Britain.
“Although the exact age of the skull has yet to be confirmed, it’s probable that the channel within which the find was made is contemporary with the forest, and so an age in excess of 4000 years old is likely,” adds Dr Bates.
“It is wonderful that this find was reported to us so that we could recover these remains for scientific study rather than it ending up on the wall in somebody’s house, lost to the world much as it has been for the last 4000 years,” he continues.
Dr Ros Coard, a faunal specialist at UWTSD Lampeter says: “Animal bones are known to erode out of their original deposits all along the coast of Wales, especially after the winter storms and are often reported by members of the public. None are as large or as impressive as this recent find however.
“Although the antlers and partial skull still have to undergo full analysis, the antlers can be said to come from a very large, mature male red deer. The individual was certainly in the prime of his life showing full development of the large antlers. They will undergo further analysis at UWTSD in Lampeter.”
The discovery is on part in an on-going series of investigations undertaken by staff at UWTSD into the forest and its environs. Construction activity of the new sea defences have provided new opportunities to study the forest and the work, funded by Ceredigion County Council, is being undertaken in Lampeter on samples recovered from this scheme.
This project should provide detailed reconstructions of the forest through its life and may shed light on how and why the forest died and the sea flooded the area once again.
Dr Bates has also recently won a grant from the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) to combine a group of specialists from diverse fields (artist, storyteller, philologist, geoarcheologist, songwriter and poet) to create a new understanding regarding the interplay of flooding facts and fictions in Cardigan Bay.
This new find, returning from this flooded landscape, may now play a central role in this project.
In addition to his work in Borth, Dr Martin Bates is involved in exploring the lost landscapes of the Norfolk coastline and in 2013 discovered a series of footprints left by early humans in ancient estuary muds over 800,000 years ago at the Happisburgh site in Norfolk
The footprints, discovered in May 2013, were the oldest recorded footprints outside of Africa and are direct evidence of the earliest known humans in northern Europe. The footprint surface was exposed at low tide as heavy seas removed the beach sands to reveal a series of elongated hollows cut into compacted silts.
The surface was recorded using photogrammetry, a technique that can stitch together digital photographs to create a permanent record and 3D images of the surface. It was the analysis of these images that confirmed that the elongated hollows were indeed ancient human footprints.
Aggressive man found naked and abusive
A NAKED man who urinated in a police cell required six police officers deal with his arrest.
Brian Warren Kerley, 24, of Clos Yr Helyg in Crymych, attended Aberystwyth Magistrates’ Court on Wednesday (Nov 15) to face four offences.
Kerley pleaded guilty to assaulting two constables in the execution of their duty, using threatening behaviour towards another with intent, and damaging police property by urinating in a cell and on its mattress.
Prosecutor Helen Tench said on October 31, police received a call regarding a disturbance in a public place in Cardigan. They arrived at the scene to find Kerley stripped of clothing and behaving in a threatening manner.
The defendant was escorted to the police vehicle, where he became increasingly aggressive towards a member of the public. He then wrapped his leg around one of the officers’ to trip him up. He spat on the other officer’s arm.
Ms Tench said the defendant continued spitting and became ‘extremely aggressive and violent’ when he banged his head inside the police vehicle.
A total of six police officers assisted with the arrest.
At custody, officers attempted to reason with Kerley whilst he continued his threatening behaviour, and was monitored in his cell every 30 minutes.
In the early hours of November 1, the defendant urinated in his cell three times. Two of these times, he urinated on the mattress.
In a statement, Kerley said he was sorry for committing the offences and did not remember the incident.
Defending, Katy Hanson said Kerley was filled with remorse and regret for his behaviour and accepted responsibility.
She added that it ‘clearly is not the way for someone to behave’ and the defendant ‘now realises the potential consequences of his actions’.
Ms Hanson concluded by saying Kerley admitted to having consumed three cans of lager on the night in question and has no recollection of the events.
Probation officer Julian Davies said the defendant was currently serving a 12-month community order imposed on September 20 for an offence of common assault.
For the offences, magistrates allowed the current community order to continue and added a six-week curfew.
Kerley was told to pay £50 compensation to both officers he assaulted, but no compensation for the offence of criminal damage.
He was also told to pay prosecution costs of £85 and a surcharge of £85.
Scrutiny committee votes to close Bodlondeb
AT A recorded vote this morning (Nov 20) Ceredigion’s Healthier Communities Scrutiny Committee voted to back the Cabinet’s decision to close Bodlondeb Residential Home by the end of March 2018.
In refusing to remit the decision to Full Council, the committee dashed the hopes of campaigners fighting to retain Bodlondeb until adequate replacement facilities are in place.
The vote was nine to seven with no abstentions.
There will be more on this breaking story later and in this week’s Ceredigion Herald.
AM calls for further protection of wild animals after Lynx deaths
MID AND WEST AM Simon Thomas has called for further protection from the Welsh Government following the death of two wild cats from a zoo in Borth, near Aberystwyth.
The AM quizzed the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths in a topical question in the Senedd.
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs for Plaid Cymru Simon Thomas said: “The deaths of the two Lynx wild cats have created a great deal of concern to many people in the area and, more broadly, to people who care for animals and their welfare at zoos.
“I asked whether the Welsh Government approved of the steps taken by Ceredigion County Council in this case and more broadly with the position of the zoo. It’s clear that there’s something amiss when a wild animal can escape and another dies because of its handling. I requested we look at national regulations that govern organisations such as this to ensure that people who run zoos do have the appropriate skills, but also that the equipment is suitable for the animals kept there.
The Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths replied: “Ceredigion County Council is investigating the escape of the lynx and the death of a second lynx linked to the zoo to establish whether there have been any breaches of the operating licence. While inquiries are ongoing it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on this matter.”
She added: “Officials have been in frequent contact with Ceredigion County Council. The decision to dispatch the animal was taken by the county council along with Dyfed-Powys Police, officials from Welsh Government and also the chief veterinary officer. There are several issues that I think need to be looked into very carefully around the licence.”
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