Archaeological discoveries uncovered at Caernarfon Castle in Wales

It seems if you dig anywhere around Caernarfon Castle in Wales you will be able to turn up a wide variety of historical artifacts. The construction of a new ticketing entrance has led to new finds of ancient, medieval and early modern origins.

Caernarfon Castle - photo by Markus Schroeder / Flickr

CADW. the Welsh Government’s historic environment service. has reported finding lead pistols, musket balls, animal bones and a piece of Roman pottery at Caernarfon Castle’s Kings Gate this month as part of the construction work. 


The excavation revealed further evidence of two distinct episodes in the history of the Castle. Building work on the castle was started in 1283 on the orders of King Edward I under the direction of James of St George, Master of the King’s Works in Wales at the time. Among the discoveries is a large rubbish pit, or midden, found in the gatehouse is likely to date from this period when the castle was under construction. It contained a large amount of animal bones and shells, including oysters which are likely to have come from the Menai Strait. Archaeologists hope that further analysis of the finds will provide additional information on the diet of those who built the castle.

The castle was later used as a stronghold in the 17th Century during the Civil War. By this time the castle was in a poor state of repair but it was held for the King by Lord Byron who was besieged three times within the walls.


The archaeologists discovered remains from these sieges, including lead pistol, musket balls and clay tobacco pipes from the 17th century. They also found half of a large stone cannonball, around 8” in diameter, which is also thought to date from this period.

The excavations also revealed an unexpected find: A fragment of decorated Roman pottery, known as Samian, which pre-dates the castle by over 1000 years. This would have reached the area during the occupation of the Roman fort at Segontium, and is likely to have been carried into the castle during construction when considerable quantities of clay and stone were needed.

Work is now underway to assess the results of the excavations. It is anticipated that additional information will be gained through scientific analysis of the material and artifacts discovered. The archaeological excavation and post-excavation processing is being undertaken by Gwynedd Archaeological Trust, and is part of a £19 million Heritage Tourism Project, partially funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government.