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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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Minister opens film premiere for port stories

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WALES’ Arts and Sports Deputy Minister has launched a new film charting the histories and life of five port towns in Wales and Ireland.

Premiered at Ceredigion Museum in Aberystwyth, the series of eight short documentary films and one feature-length film, At the Water’s Edge: Stories of the Irish Sea, aim to promote the ports of Fishguard, Holyhead and Pembroke Dock in Wales, and Dublin Port and Rosslare Harbour in Ireland, as well as the three ferry routes connecting them.

The films were produced as part of Ports, Past and Present, a project which explores the history and cultural heritage of the ports, showcasing stunning views of the landscapes and wildlife of the Irish Sea coast and revealing the human histories of the port communities.

In Fishguard, residents Gary Jones and Jana Davidson talk of invasions by pirates and French armies, while Hedydd Hughes explains how she teaches children about local legends. In Rosslare Harbour, the Todd family from Fishguard meet their Irish in-laws, the Fergusons.

Local historian David James shares the extraordinary story of how the son of a Japanese samurai came to plant a ginkgo tree in Pembroke Dock, and local councillor Josh Beynon explores the secret location where the Millennium Falcon was built for Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. 

In Dublin and Holyhead, poetry by Gillian Brownson and Gary Brown celebrates the centuries old link of their ports. Historian Gareth Huws explains how traces of Bronze Age settlements can still be seen in the Ynys Môn town.

Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden MS, who came to the premiere, said:

“Through showcasing the rich and diverse cultural history of our ports, bringing life and colour through visual arts, literature and film, the Ports, Past and Present project will not only enhance the experience of visitors of all ages and interests, but also encourage more time and money spent in these communities.

“Engaging with local communities and increasing the awareness of port heritage through panel discussions, creative workshops and talks – is an excellent opportunity to gain the support of local residents ensuring there is a careful balance which works for the local communities as well as visitors from across the Irish Sea and beyond.

“I’m delighted to launch the film which will showcase and celebrate the best each community has to offer to prospective visitors and users of the ferry ports, but also capture the multilingual and multicultural nature of the ports and their surrounding areas.”

Professor Peter Merriman, project team leader at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences said:

“We are delighted that the Minister has officially launched our films, which portray the rich cultural and natural heritage of these Irish and Welsh port towns. They are the result of almost three years of work by the project team and our production partners Mother Goose films, and we hope that they will inspire visitors to spend more time in the ports as they pass through them.”

The films form part of a wider tourism campaign to raise awareness of the rich coastal and maritime heritage of the five selected ports and their communities.

Project leader Professor Claire Connolly from University College Cork said: “It’s a joy to see so many images and stories from Rosslare, Dublin, Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke Dock on screen. The lives and cultures of the port towns come to life in the films and together they offer an extended invitation to stop and stay in these storied places.”

Ceredigion Museum is also hosting a travelling art exhibition looking at the rich coastal history and heritage of the port communities.

Over the coming months, the films will have free screenings around Wales and Ireland, and will then be released generally so that the local communities can promote their own areas.

Ports, Past and Present is funded by the European Regional Development Fund through the Ireland Wales Co-operation Programme, and operates across four institutions in Ireland and Wales, including University College Cork, Aberystwyth University, the University of Wales Trinity St David and Wexford County Council. The film has been led by a team in the Department for Geography and Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University.

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Aberystwyth Town to welcome Knife Angel sculpture

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A HUGE 27-foot sculpture, made from 100,000 confiscated knives, is to be welcomed to Aberystwyth town next month (1 June) as local community groups prepare to come together to promote key prevention, anti-violence and anti-aggression messages.

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn, working alongside Dyfed-Powys Police, Aberystwyth Town Council and Ceredigion County Council is bringing the Knife Angel to Llys y Brenin square, Aberystwyth, where it will stand for four weeks as a physical reminder of the effects of violence and aggression.

The iconic sculpture – commissioned by the British Ironwork Centre in Oswestry, Shropshire and created by artist Alfie Bradley – will be on display in the town until 29 June 2022.

This will be the second time that Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn has bought the Knife Angel to the Dyfed Powys Police Force area, with it’s first visit being in Newtown, Powys in January 2020.  Mr Llywelyn has been keen to bring the Knife Angel back to the Force area since then, so that other communities can get involved in the key messages.

Police and Crime Commissioner Dafydd Llywelyn said; “The Knife Angel is a reminder of the devastating impact of knife crime, and any form of violence and aggression has on families and communities.

“Whilst there has been a 105% increase in knife crime in Wales over the last decade, rest assured that the Knife Angel has not been brought to Aberystwyth because of any major problem with this kind of crime in the area.

“However, we do acknowledge, that knife crimes have taken place here within the last year. Although a proportion of these were domestic, not street based, it is worrying that a small number of these involved suspects under the age of 18. I am pleased to see however that the Police and partners have come together over the last 6-months to put interventions in place to divert children from knife crime.

“Prevention of crime and diversion away from crime is essential. We hope that the Knife Angel will greatly assist us in raising critical awareness of knife crime whilst creating a widespread intolerance to violent behaviour within our communities.”

Inspector Andy Williams of Dyfed-Powys Police said: “While Dyfed-Powys Police is one of the safest places to live and work in the country, we still see the devastating effect knife crime has on our communities.

“In July last year we had a murder in Ceredigion involving a knife, when John Bell died after being stabbed in Cardigan.

“That case showed the devastation knives can have, with the loss of a life and the impact that has on Mr Bell’s loved ones, withs the man responsible rightly being sentenced to life in prison.

“The Knife Angel is a very dramatic and powerful sculpture that aims to inspire people not to turn to knife crime or even to carry a knife for protection.

“I would urge anyone to go and see it. Take your children and make a day of it to take in this poignant reminder of the dangers of violence and aggression, particularly when weapons are involved.”

Aberystwyth Town Mayor, Dr Talat Chaudhri, said: “We welcome the Knife Angel to Aberystwyth and stand together with towns and cities where knife crime is a bigger problem than it is here. There is no place for violence of any kind in our community.”

Children and young people from across Aberystwyth and neighbouring areas are being encouraged to get involved as well as community groups and organisations, in visiting the Knife Angel and taking part in engagement activities which focus on the key messages – the impact of violent crime, prevention, and diversion away from violence.

If you would like to find out more about how you, your community, school, college or university groups can get involved, please contact the Commissioner’s Engagement Team on OPCC.Communication@dyfed-powys.police.uk.

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Young person celebrates kickstart job and overcomes several obstacles

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22-YEAR-OLD Lee from rural Ceredigion found it challenging to secure permanent employment. Having no mode of transport as well as his diagnosis of autism and depression meant that Lee has experienced significant barriers with finding and maintaining employment. Communities For Work Plus (CFW+) provided Lee with the right tools and opportunities to find the right role for him. He now has a job at ASN Watson (Savers), with a more positive future ahead.

Lee was struggling financially with increasing debt and although he had been working in the past, the nature and environment of the work was not practical for Lee’s abilities; he was often misunderstood by employers.

After being referred to CFW+ from Job Centre Plus, Aberystwyth, Lee received support with job searches, applications, cover letters, cv writing, and interview skills. He’s now in paid employment, secured through the Kickstart Scheme. The UK Government Kickstart Scheme provides funding to employers to create jobs for 16 to 24-year-olds on Universal Credit.

Lee said: “The project helped me a lot as I struggle to know where to start when it comes to finding jobs, but this definitely helped. Communities for Work+ has got you covered!”

Communities For Work Plus is a Welsh Government funded project, delivered by Ceredigion County Council which supports individuals in or at risk of poverty, aged 16 or over, across Ceredigion and throughout Wales. Participants may be experiencing in-work poverty, unemployment, living on minimum wage, or struggling to pay basic monthly outgoings on sporadic zero-hour contracts.

Misha Homayoun-Fekri, CFW+ Mentor said: “Lee has been a pleasure to support. He was always very responsive, and we worked together every step of the way. I am so pleased for Lee that he has found a job that he can be happy in.”

Since starting his new role, Lee has become a lot more independent, his mental health has improved, and has started to save money for the future.

Councillor Wyn Thomas, Ceredigion County Council Cabinet Member for Schools, Lifelong Learning and Skills, said: “One in 100 people are on the autism spectrum. A report released by the Office for National Statistics shows that only 21.7% of autistic people are in employment; meaning that businesses are missing out on the opportunity to benefit from the strengths that autistic people can bring to the workplace. So, it’s great to hear that Lee has found an autism-friendly employer through the support provided by CFW+ and I encourage more employers to be more inclusive to all abilities when considering employees.”

If you think the project may be able to help you or if you would like more information, contact the team on 01545 574193 or email TCC-EST@ceredigion.gov.uk.

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