Dispute over Age of Excavations at Ancient Site; FEARS OVER DAMAGE TO PROFESSIONAL REPUTATION

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Byline: MARTIN SHIPTON

ONE of Wales' best known archaeologists has criticised Welsh heritage body Cadw for "potentially damaging" his professional reputation.

Steve Clarke, who runs Monmouth Archaeology, also feels his integrity has been impugned by a statement from the Heritage Minister which described an important site he is excavating as of Roman origin when he is certain it dates back to the Bronze Age.

Mr Clarke has asked for an independent expert to be called in to the review the evidence.

The significant find at the site in Monmouth has astonished historians and archaeologists, who believe it could reflect a structure, unique to Britain, which dates back to at least the Bronze Age.

Experts have suggested that the structure's size and the fact it was made from entire trees mean it could be a "long house".

The settlement lies on the banks of a lake which silted up thousands of years ago, and was probably started shortly after the last glaciation of the Ice Age.

Archaeologists from Mr Clarke's group, a professional wing of the Monmouth Archaeological Society, were employed by housing developers Charles Church to study the site ahead of construction, and stumbled on the site during excavation.

Last month Monmouth AM Nick Ramsay asked Mr Lewis a series of questions about the find, which he was anxious to see preserved.

In the written response he has received from the Minister, Mr Lewis said: "It is now recognised that the features are cut from a higher level and therefore are of a later, as yet unknown, date.

"On-site discussions have now been held between the excavators, my officials in [heritage body] Cadw and officers from the Glamorgan Gwent Archaeological Trust.

"Although interpretations differ as to what the trenches might represent and how old they might be, it is now accepted that it is very unlikely that they represent a prehistoric house. "It is possible that they may represent part of a later Roman system of drainage ditches similar to those from the Roman period on the Gwent Levels. …