In February 2015, following on from our Viking Session in January, BBYAC had a battle – a battle between the invading Viking forces and Rhodri Mawr for the control of Wales. In reality this happened much future north than the Brecon Beacons, but for our purposes we brought everything further south.
To start off we all learned about archaeological recording from Paul, who led the session, leaning all about the need to carefully record what is found and where, in order to understand or be able to interpret events that happened in the past.
Everyone came to the session equipped with an excellent array of homemade cardboard shields and swords.
We divided ourselves in the Welsh and Viking forces, had a quick chat about rules of the battle, tactics and shield walls and then had our battle according to a pre-arranged storyboard. We started by hurling taunts and insults to the opposing armies, then the Viking army advanced and the armies clashed.
Swords clashed, shields clattered, and many a brave warrior fell, and sometimes due to friendly fire – because it proved difficult to tell the difference between the Welsh and the Viking forces. We had some very fine warriors and some very fine actors.
In the end we ran the battle twice, once with the Viking forces being victorious, and once with the Welsh forces taking victory.
Then, it was time for a quick refreshment break for everyone to recover their strength, before we traveled forward in time over 1000 years, and investigated the battlefield as archaeologists. Through careful recording of what we found in our trial ‘trenches’ we were able to build up an idea of what happened where – where the 2 armies were camped the night before, where the main area of fighting was, and even work out our archaeological red herring in the form of some earlier Roman remains that predated our battled by hundreds of years.
But, as so often with archaeology, as well as finding some answers we also found lots more questions –
Who actually won the battle? – we couldn’t tell from the remains left behind.
Where were the remains of the fallen warriors? – we didn’t find any trace of burial pits for those that died during the fighting.
Which weapons were Viking and which were Welsh? – they were so similar without specialist analysis we found it difficult to tell the different between the two armies weapons.
A useful lesson in building an interpretation with incomplete evidence, and we all learned a lot about battlefield archaeology and had great fun doing it!