Armchair Archeology

Combining traditional archaeological methods with the power of technology

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A thousand-year-old relic is revealed

Around the time the final touches were being added to the Domesday Book and the Norman Conquest was drawing to a close, a community in Wales built an 850-foot V-shaped structure in the Teifi Estuary. Their engineering feat lay forgotten for a millennium, until sharp-eyed observers were able to spot it using Google Earth.

When aerial photographers reported seeing an unusual shape in the murky depths at the mouth of the River Teifi, a bit of a mystery started to unfold. Archaeologists were informed, and Dr. Ziggy Otto of Pembrokeshire College was called in to investigate.

He didn’t have to charter a flight to have a look for himself though; the structure was clearly visible on Google Earth. From the comfort of his computer screen, it was clear to Dr. Otto that an ancient tidal fish trap had been discovered.

The 1,000 year old fishing trap in the Teifi estuary is visible in Google Earth.

"Google Earth is an easy, effective tool for coastal and archaeological research, enabling me to virtually visit potential sites before conducting field work. I look forward to making more extensive use of it with future projects." -- Dr. Ziggy Otto

The enormous stone structure had been designed to ensnare shoals of herring, mackerel and possibly flatfish, which could be hauled up in nets when the tide was out.

The first two steps, aerial observation and virtual investigation, kept researchers high and dry. In order to complete the research, though, Dr. Otto – a scuba diver as well as lecturer on the coastal environment – has undertaken a series of dives to complete a full underwater survey of the fish trap.

Dr. Ziggy Otto prepares for a dive. (Photo courtesy of Ziggy Otto)