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[LINK] “The discovery of medieval Trellech and the plucky amateurs of archaeology”

At The Conversation, Ben Edwards writes about the discovery of the lost medieval Welsh city of Trellech, and the import of its recent rediscovery by an amateur archaeologist.

The tale of how an amateur archaeologist’s hunch led him to uncover a lost medieval town and spend £32,000 of his own money to buy the land, would stand to be the archaeological discovery of any year. On the border between England and Wales, the site of the medieval town of Trellech reveals much about a tumultuous period of history – and how the town came to be lost.

The story begins in 2004, when archaeology graduate Stuart Wilson began his search for this lost medieval town in Monmouthshire, south-east Wales, near where now only a small village bears the name. In the face of scepticism from academic archaeologists, Wilson’s years of work have been vindicated with the discovery of a moated manor house, a round stone tower, ancillary buildings, and a wealth of smaller finds including pottery from the 1200s.

The town could turn out to be one of the largest in medieval Wales, and while there is more work to be done, the evidence is building. The large number of finds – including metalwork, cooking vessels and decorated pottery – point to a large settlement, and are essential in helping archaeologists date the site. What they suggest is a short-lived but intensive period of occupation between the 12th and early 15th centuries, during which the town was founded by the De Clare family as an industrial centre and later destroyed during the Owain Glyndwr rebellion in 1400. This was a period of instability on the Welsh border, with conflict between rival Welsh princes and the English throne. Settlements like Trellech would become the focus of such clashes, culminating in Glyndwr’s rebellion.

What makes the lost city of Trellech so important is its rarity and the quality of its preservation. Most large medieval settlements in England and Wales are still towns and cities to this day. This means archaeological investigations of medieval London or York for example are difficult and expensive, and can only occur piecemeal as urban redevelopment allows excavation of small areas. If Trellech turns out to be an extensive town, it will be a unique and important site. As archaeology is key to understanding the lives of everyday people who are ignored by the histories of the great and the good, sites like Trellech are the only way we gain these insights.

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Written by Randy McDonald

January 9, 2017 at 8:45 pm

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