27 Jul 2023
by Cat Rees

I am a PhD student undertaking a joint Arts & Humanities Research Council funded project between Amgueddfa Cymru and Manchester Metropolitan University. The working title of my project is Annwn BC – Mortality in Pre-Roman Cymru - although this has already changed a few times since I started and may well change again! Beginning with the Neanderthal remains from Pontnewydd, my project takes a long view of how the pre-Roman populations in Wales treated and deposited their dead. The project aim is that rather than subdividing time into specific culture-historic periods (such as the neolithic period or the Beaker Culture), time is treated as a continuum. Bayesian modelling is being used to refine the radiocarbon dates gathered from sites in Wales to create a more detailed chronology to attempt to pinpoint when changes happened. It is hoped that this approach will give a more refined picture when looking at what happened, where and when and how sites can fall in and out of focus with repeated visits over millennia.

Although I predominantly work on my PhD research remotely (from my home in Conwy) I try to spend one week a month in Amgueddfa Cymru using the collections, the library and chatting to everyone (the best bit as I get a bit lonely sometimes!). I attended a ‘Work in Progress’ workshop at the museum to catch up on what other PhD students at the museum are working on. This was such an uplifting day, seeing the wide variety of projects that are being worked on by the different departments and the different approaches taken.

I am currently exploring the development of mortuary archaeology with a Welsh focus, and how this varies from elsewhere in the United Kingdom and in Ireland. The section I am working on is examining the establishment of the national museum as an apparatus of state building, and the role of Welsh academic journals and publications. It still absolutely blows my mind that when the main Welsh archaeological journal - Archaeologia Cambrensis, was established in 1846 Wales had no capital city, national university, national library, or national museum!

Today as I was based in Amgueddfa Cymru’s ‘main’ building in the centre of Cardiff I decided to go for a wander through the dinosaur and megafauna exhibition on my way to the library. This is my favourite thing about being the museum and I still can’t quite believe that I can wander around behind the scenes - and get to go through all the various locked doors which fascinated me as a child. I love the mammoth cave section with the mother and baby exhibit, standing next to an animal this size and imagining how it felt to be standing in the same spot tens of thousands of years earlier and encountering a similar scene.

Mammoth remains featured prominently amongst the grave goods of the Paviland burial and vividly contextualise the human relationships with these incredible animals. It remains a source of intense personal frustration that one of the most significant discoveries of the upper palaeolithic was made in Wales, yet the burial and associated artefacts are not in the national collection – but that is a blog for another day!!!






Related topics

Cat Rees

Amgueddfa Cymru-Museum Wales

Contact details