Myth, story and legend
Recent archaeological excavations in the back garden of a Mid Wales pub generated unprecedented international press interest recently when Dr Jemma Bezant and student Olwyn Pritchard decided to investigate the Tregaron Elephant Myth.
Volunteers from the community and the University conducted a dig to test whether the rumours of an elephant's grave in the rear garden of the Talbot Hotel during Easter 2011. During the summer of 1848 Batty's travelling menagerie visited Tregaron as part of its seasonal round of the towns of Wales. An elephant was taken ill and died and was reputedly buried in the back garden of the Talbot, (the historic coaching inn fronting the main square within the town). Whether or not this story is true, the Tregaron elephant has become the stuff of local lore and the elephant has acquired mythical, almost mascot-like, status.
Long-term links with communities in the area are based upon the School's research project looking at the medieval history of the Cistercian Abbey of Strata Florida in particular, but the wider area of Mid Wales is also of interest to researchers looking to place the region a National and International context looking at later histories, agriculture and land-use and community. The Elephant Project has engaged local people with their stories surrounding the 'elephant' event and has drawn together some of the evidence.
“This story belongs to the community of Tregaron and the project will involve local people in gathering local evidence and histories as well as providing the opportunity to engage in some pilot archaeological excavation. The project aims to collect the histories and stories relating to this event, engage the community in archaeological activities and generate content for the community web-site"
“This project is about celebrating the story of the Tregaron Elephant and less about ‘finding out the truth’. It is likely that we will generate more questions than answers and this project will contribute to the rich history of the area in its own right. The main aim is to engage the local community in the construction and telling of their own stories and histories,” concludes Dr Bezant.
Excavations so far remain inconclusive and the search continues. Meanwhile research into the particular story-telling tropes of this rural community explores the possibility that landscape has had an influence on the types of myth that proliferate in the upland Cambrians.