A guest post by Dr Sandy Gerrard.

Our understanding of the past relies on carefully collecting information and piecing together the fragments to provide an insight into what happened in the distant or not too distant past. The process of converting the data from whatever source into explanations is called interpretation.  We all do this countless times every day. We see something and in order to understand what it is we interpret it and react accordingly. Our reactions are likely to be based on experience and so it is with archaeological interpretation. The better one understands a subject the better are the chances of coming to a fully justified explanation which consequently has more chance of being right or at least being close to the mark.

Sometimes there is very little data to go on, whilst on other occasions there may be loads and often it can be contradictory.  Interpreting archaeological data can therefore be very difficult and challenging and at the end of the process one may simply not be able to provide any answers and instead the reward maybe further questions. This I find an appealing aspect of archaeology and relish the opportunity to examine and re-examine ideas, theories and hypothesis.

Fundamental to the proper interpretative process is to embrace all the available evidence and to assess it comprehensively. Often much evidence still remains to be found and some may be hidden out of sight, but it is of paramount importance to ensure that at least the information that is readily available is used and used objectively.

A while back I was asked by Cadw if I would like to meet with them to discuss the situation at Mynydd y Betws. I responded positively saying:

“an on-site meeting would be most appropriate as some of the issues can only be properly considered there and we could then re-convene somewhere indoors to deal with the paperwork issues that are best dealt with out of the elements.” 

Pretty clear I would have thought. Cadw have offered a meeting and I have accepted.  Sadly in the perverse universe inhabited by Cadw, senior management were inexplicably informed that I had been:

offered a face-to-face meeting, which Dr Gerrard has refused”.

Several interpretations of this situation are possible and most of them should concern anyone interested in the management of our past.


Is this a pile of stones or a Bronze Age burial cairn? Clearly sometimes the evidence is far from obvious and mistakes are understandably made. But surely we should expect the guardians of our heritage to understand the difference between Yes and No?