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Antlers are thousands of years old

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Borth beach bonanza: Dr Martin Bates and the 4,000 year-old skull

Borth beach bonanza: Dr Martin Bates and the 4,000 year-old skull

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.

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Police call for vigilance to report illegal raves

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DYFED-POWYS POLICE is asking farmers and local landowners to be on the alert over the next few months for warning signs of any illegal gatherings planned for their land over the summer.

Gatherings – such as illegal raves – can cause considerable anxiety to the community and if they are not dealt with swiftly, they are difficult to stop or otherwise control, due often to the sheer numbers of persons involved and the safety aspects surrounding breaking up such an event.

Superintendent Robyn Mason said: “There is little doubt that these type of events are very well planned, organised and that local knowledge is important in drawing down the main group to a particular ‘vulnerable’ field, or area of land which has been targeted previously as a suitable venue.

“Farmers, landowners and local communities are encouraged to report any suspicious activity immediately to the Police; this may be an unusual numbers of vehicles, especially camper vans, vans or trucks in the locality, illegal trespassers who may be doing ‘recce’ of sites in advance of the event.

“I can assure local communities that Police will take the appropriate action to deter illegal gatherings and deal robustly with any criminal offences discovered or disclosed.”  

Members of the public are also urged to be vigilant of persons who approach landowners or enquiring for land, in the guise of hiring for apparently acceptable activities such as gymkhanas and scouts/guides events.

Please contact Police on 101 with reports on any suspicious activity.

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Wheelchair-bound man jailed for child sex offences

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A CHILD sex offender from Ystrad Meurig has been jailed despite being wheelchair-bound.

Dean Harper, aged 61, had distributed child pornography and tried to entice a 10-year-old girl into sexually abusing herself and sending him photographs.

Harper, of Sisial y Pin, Ffair Rhos, admitted downloading 317 indecent images of children in the most serious category A, 400 in category B and 500 in C.

He also admitted sending images in all three categories to a third party, all on a single day in October, 2016.

Harper also admitted attempting to incite the girl into sexual activity knowing that she was only 10-years-old.

Kevin Jones, prosecuting, told Swansea Crown Court that the distribution of the images alerted the police who raided Harper’s home and removed computer equipment.

An examination of his internet activity revealed he had made contact with a girl via social media and swapped messages with her.

The judge, Mr Recorder Peter Griffiths told Harper his offending was serious and a jail sentence was inevitable despite his disability.

Harper was jailed for a total of two years and ordered to register with the police as a sex offender for 10 years.

He was also made the subject of a sexual harm prevention order which will restrict his contact with young people and his internet activity after his release from prison.

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Royals set to visit Ceredigion during summer visit

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AS PART of their annual summer visit to Wales, The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall will be visiting Ceredigion next month.

From July 2-6, Charles and Camilla will tour the country, undertaking over 20 engagements across the country.

On July 3, The Prince of Wales will visit Dà Mhìle Distillery, Llandysul, the first organic distillery in the UK approved by the Soil Association, where he was previously gifted the thousandth bottle to be produced by Dà Mhìle.

The Prince of Wales will also visit St. Gwenog’s Church, Llanwenog, and view their unique carvings created by Joseph Reubens, a Belgian World War One refugee. His Royal Highness will also meet members of their local community.

The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall’s fourteenth annual Summer visit to Wales will feature celebrations to mark the 70th Anniversary of The National Health Service and the marking the 150th anniversary of the Heart of Wales railway line amongst other events.

A Clarence House spokesperson said: “The Prince and The Duchess are really looking forward to their annual summer visit to Wales where they will be celebrating key anniversaries for the National Health Service, the Heart of Wales railway line and the 90th anniversary of Gwent Association of Voluntary Organisation. Their Royal Highnesses relish the opportunity to meet members of the community who are making a difference to Welsh life.”

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