University archaeologists start Tregaron elephant dig

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Archaeologists are digging up a pub beer garden in search of a legendary Victorian circus elephant.

The Tregaron Elephant has long had its place in local folklore, and is thought to have been buried behind the town's Talbot Hotel after dying on tour.

The small-scale excavation started on Saturday morning and the hunt for clues about the animal's final resting place will continue until next Thursday.

But the hotel once owned 100 acres, and the remains could be elsewhere.

On Sunday, project leader Dr Jemma Bezant, from the University of Wales Trinity St David, said nothing had been found so far apart from some Victorian pottery and some teeth, thought to be from a sheep.

About 10 people from the university are taking part.

The elephant was said to have fallen ill after drinking contaminated water in the Ceredigion town in 1848.

It is believed to have been part of Batty's Travelling Menageries, a circus troupe which entertained widely in the area that year.

Dr Bezant said: "We have started excavating and we've picked some Victorian debris such as clay pipes and pottery, so we're in the right period.

"We've also found some teeth, which are thought to have come from a sheep, but there's no sign of the elephant yet, but it's early days.

"Since we've been here we've heard a number of stories that the elephant was buried elsewhere in the town. The hotel once owned 100 acres of land, so it could be buried elsewhere.

"The land is owned by someone else now, but he's happy for us to return another time to search his land (if the elephant is not found)."

Dafydd Watkin and his partner Tracy Batt are licensees of the Talbot Hotel, and they said about 30 people had watched the start of the dig on Saturday.

Mr Watkin said the archaeologists were working in the hotel's beer garden, but had found nothing so far.

"They started digging this morning and they'll be here until next Thursday," said Mr Watkin.

Image caption,
The dig has started in the beer garden at The Talbot in Tregaron

"There's been quite a crowd here. About 30 people have been in and out watching the dig in the beer garden, and we're expecting more people over the weekend.

"Before the dig started the local councillor Catherine Hughes said a few words."

Mr Watkin said he was not worried about losing trade because of the dig, and added that it would probably draw in more customers.

The dig is part of a wider project by the University of Wales Trinity St David's archaeology department.

Dr Bezant, of the School of Archaeology, History and Anthropology, said last month that the project was about celebrating the story of the Tregaron Elephant and less about "finding out the truth".

She added that it was likely the effort would generate more questions than answers.

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