Press Releases 2017

UWTSD Academic takes part in the new series of BBC Radio Wales comedy adventure series, The Unexplainers

06.04.2017

Dr Martin Bates, a geoarchaeologist at the University of Wales Trinity Saint David will be heard on BBC Radio Wales this weekend in the first programme of a new series described as ‘the world's only comedy, adventure, mystery show.’

Martin Bates

The Unexplainers is a quirky series about myths and legends that has grown a global audience, with large followings in London, California and New York. Produced by Risca based company Zipline Creative, the programme has beaten the likes of Chris Evans and Ricky Gervais in the podcast download charts.  The show stars GLC rap star John Rutledge and comedian Mike Bubbins, known globally for his Clash Royal adverts.

Following the viral success of the comedy show back in 2015, the third series returns bigger and better than before.  The first mystery featured in the series asks Is there a Welsh Atlantis? and this is where team enlists help of UWTSD’s Dr Martin Bates.

Based at the University’s Lampeter campus, geoarchaeologist Dr Martin Bates has a research focus in soils and sediments from archaeological sites and looks at the relationship between humans in their landscape.

Geoarchaeology is a multi-disciplinary approach which uses the techniques of geographygeology and other sciences to examine topics which inform archaeological knowledge.  Some of the archaeological discoveries that Dr Martin Bates has been involved with include a Bronze Age boat; red deer antlers dated between 1200 and 1000 BC; the lost landscapes of the Norfolk Coastline and the oldest human footprints outside of Africa.  Martin is also an authority on the submerged forests in Borth, Ceredigion and this is why The Unexplainers ask for his help.

Dr Martin Bates’ work in Borth is part of an on-going series of investigations undertaken by staff at UWTSD into the forest and its environs.  Construction activity of the new sea defences have provided new opportunities to study the forest and the work, funded by Ceredigion County Council, is being undertaken in Lampeter on samples recovered from this scheme.  This project is offering detailed reconstructions of the forest through its life and may shed light on how and why the forest died and the sea flooded the area once again.

Dr Bates also recently won a grant from the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) to run a project entitled Layers in the Landscape.  This combined a group of specialists from diverse fields including an artist, storyteller, philologist, geoarcheologist, songwriter and poet to create a new understanding regarding the interplay of flooding facts and fictions in Cardigan Bay.  Erin Kavanagh, who ran the Layers in the Landscape project features alongside Martin Bates in the Unexplainers too.

Presenter John Rutledge was very excited at the prospect of exploring the Welsh Atlantis:  “Ever since I watched the 1978 Doug Mcclure movie Warlords of Atlantis, I have been strangely drawn to water, I've tried drinking it, freezing it and I’ve even poured it over myself but 2017 is the year that i discovered its true secret…..It harbours an ancient race of Celtic warriors just off the coast of Wales.”

Comedian Mike adds:  “The Welsh Atlantis goes by many names in the ancient language of Wales, including Cantre'r Gwaelod and Maes Gwyddno.  In modern English I would describe the Welsh Atlantis as various places that used to be on dry land/near the water, some remains of which are now, due to rising sea levels, not on dry land land/underwater. But is there something more mysterious being hidden by the depths?   Is there, to this day, a ghostly sub-marine Kingdom protected by hordes of gilled warriors? Almost certainly not. But I still ended up in a wetsuit, cursing John!”

As well as his work in Borth, Dr Martin Bates is involved in a range of research projects including work in Orkney, Scotland, where he is trying to understand how the islands have changed after the last glacial period. He is researching how changes to the climate affected the landscape and how that in turn may have affected the humans that were there. The project involves drilling the seabed in order to locate some of the submerged landscapes that are present beneath the sea.

Martin is also working in Jersey, on a site that spans the last quarter of a million years with the focus of attention being a Neanderthal cave site called La Cotte de St Brelade, which was occupied for at least 200,000 years. The aim of the project is to understand the site within the broader landscape of Jersey and north western France.

“One of the things about the time period I’m dealing with and I’m interested in the last 1 million years - is that behind human activity and evolution, is a climate story,” says Dr Bates.

“The cycle of the last 100,000 years, of warm to cold and back to warm again, can be read from the different geological deposits we find in places like ‘La Cotte de St Brelade, Jersey.

“It’s important for us as archaeologists to see what the climate cycle was doing and link the presence and absence of humans and the different types of humans to the climate cycle.

“So it’s as important for us to know what the climate was doing as it is to know when humans were there, what tools they were using and when they were using them. This all links in to a big story of humans in their landscapes and their environment, moving around and doing things differently at different times.”

Martin is also involved in exploring the lost landscapes of the Norfolk coastline. As an ongoing project, the aim is to research the earliest human occupation of Britain. 

Along with a team of scientists from the British Museum, Natural History Museum, Queen Mary University of London and Liverpool John Moores University, Martin discovered a series of footprints left by early humans in ancient estuary muds over 800,000 years ago at the Happisburgh site in Norfolk. The footprints, discovered in May 2013, are direct evidence of the earliest known humans in northern Europe. The footprint surface was exposed at low tide as heavy seas removed the beach sands to reveal a series of elongated hollows cut into compacted silts.

The surface was recorded using photogrammetry, a technique that can stitch together digital photographs to create a permanent record and 3D images of the surface. It was the analysis of these images that confirmed that the elongated hollows were indeed ancient human footprints, perhaps of five individuals.

The Unexplainers starts on BBC Radio Wales on Saturday the 8th of April at 1PM.  It can be downloaded from the BBC, iTunes and all good podcast outlets thereafter.

To find out more about Archaeology at UWTSD, please visit http://www.uwtsd.ac.uk/humanities-performingarts/archaeology/

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