LOCALS and visitors will be able to gain an insight into the lives and deaths of Pembrokeshire's early medieval Christian communities, as this year's dig at St Patrick's Chapel, Whitesands, takes place through June and July.

Archaeologists and researchers will be working at the chapel in an attempt to find out as much as possible about its history, and the history of those who worshipped there, before it secrets are lost to the sea.

Ancient Connections, a European funded heritage and arts programme linking north Pembrokeshire and County Wexford Ireland, is reopening the archaeological dig.

Excavation of the chapel cemetery, overlooking the beach at Whitesands Bay, has revealed over 100 burials to date. Radiocarbon dating has shown that the cemetery was in use from the 8th century to the 11th century.

Analysis of the skeletons at the University of Sheffield has revealed a mixed population of men, women and children of all ages.

A unique burial rite has also been identified: burials of children with white quartz pebbles placed on the top of cists; graves lined and capped with stone slabs, a burial tradition common across western Britain in the early medieval period.

Graves are aligned east/west with the head to the west. In keeping with the Christian burial tradition there were no possessions buried with the bodies.

Archaeologists say there is still a significant amount of evidence left to excavate, including an intriguing stone structure which pre-dates the burials.

Coastal erosion has been a concern at the site since the early 20th century, with regular reports of burials emerging from sand dunes.

Continuing damage to the Scheduled Ancient Monument means there is an urgent need for excavation to retrieve as much information as possible. Previous excavations were carried out in 2014, 2015 and 2016.

Dyfed Archaeological Trust, in partnership with Pembrokeshire National Park Authority, will be providing regular guided tours of the excavation from June 7 to July 16. The tours are free and there is no need to book.