Experts Take a Dig at Cadw for 'Unduly Light' Checks at Castle; Guardian of Welsh Monuments Urged to Improve Its Procedures

Article excerpt

Byline: David James

WELSH Heritage body Cadw has been warned its inspection regime for archaeological digs is not robust enough following a controversial excavation at Cardiff Castle.

Professional standards body the Institute of Field Archaeologists criticised Assembly-run Cadw in a confidential report leaked to the Western Mail.

The IFA described Cadw's monitoring regime as "unduly light" and "potentially inadequate" and recommended it review its procedures used at protected ancient monuments across Wales.

The report, which was published in May, reveals the tensions that unsettled a headline-making dig at the mock-medieval Victorian castle over the winter of 2005-06.

As reported in the Western Mail in May 2006, the excavation uncovered flint tools and coarse pottery suggesting there was a prehistoric settlement at the site long before the Romans arrived and built a fort there in AD55.

Yet during this work, which paved the way for the creation of a visitor centre at the Victorian Castle, a small group of archaeologists alleged there were not enough staff, they were being pressured to work overtime, carry out too much work under floodlit conditions, and that inexperienced staff were not given enough training.

The signatories also made specific technical complaints about the work that they were being asked to do.

Their complaints, which focused on the body that carried out the work, the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust (GGAT), were submitted later in 2006 and investigated by the IFA.

The resulting report rejected the whistle-blowers' criticisms about the excavation strategy, partly because of a lack of evidence, but upheld criticisms about Cadw's monitoring regime and made recommendations for GGAT.

In its conclusions, the report's author wrote: "The monitoring regime led by Cadw seems to have been unduly light and potentially inadequate with infrequent site visits and meetings by the monitoring team (approximately every six weeks).

"It is possible a robust, unified curatorial approach from Cadw, GGAT and local authority planners would have lessened what may have been intense pressure on GGAT and their team to finish the site without delay. …