Dr. Stuart Needham, Honorary Research Fellow at the National Museum of Wales in Cardiff and formerly Curator of European Bronze Age Antiquities at the British Museum, London., has recently published a most comprehensive and significant essay about the artefacts discovered within a barrow on Gamer’s Hill (1)[ SJ 244639 ]; now prominently on show at the British Museum and which was on public display at the Wrexham County Borough Museum this past summer, 7 August — 14 September 2013.
Much sensational information has come to light within the past decade regarding the gold cape. We already knew it had been hammered out of a solid ingot of 720g. New scientific research has revealed that the gold was of high quality and that it possibly came from two sources in Ireland but equally exciting there was comparable deposits of the mineral in north Wales. Indeed there are sources at Moel Fama and Cilcain but little is known of how successful was its extraction at those two places which are very near to Mold. Some metallurgists support the view that the gold may well have been panned from alluvial sediments running through drift deposits found in the streams at the upper reaches of the Dee. These facts together with the distribution of Bronze Age barrows , cairns and ringed-ditches have convinced archaeologists that the cape is older than had originally been thought, i.e. from 1953 until 2005 the British Museum recorded it as belonging to the Middle Bronze Age period ( 1600-1300 BC). It is now recognised as belonging to the Early Bronze Age ( 1900-1600 BC). The people involved at this time are reckoned to have dwelt between the river Dee in the east and the Hiraethog Hills to the west and the Llantysilio Mountain in the south. The cape is thought to have been a ceremonial symbol of power (2); remnants of another [ long lost ] was discovered in the Wrexham area (3) five portions of a third ( thought to be the Mold cape’s predecessor ) were identified recently amongst the surviving finds at the BM found at Bryn-yr-ellyllon in the 1830s.
Dr Needham comments, ‘We cannot know whether it was of similar size to the main cape, but the sheet metal is thinner, so the likelihood is that the mass metal was less. Although this object too was made of moderately high-silver gold ( level 2% lower than the cape)’. He concludes: ‘Given these various observations and deductions, it is hard to escape the conclusion that the Mold cape, and it predecessor cape had a strong component of gold originating in a source within southern Britain.’ Ed.
Fig 10. The second object, represented by five fragments reconstructed as a rectangular plaque cut out from a former cape. There is some distortion caused by reworking the plaque’s edges. The outline represents the front of the main cape.
- S Needham, ‘Putting capes into context : Mold at the heart of a domain’ in W J Britnell & R J Silvester (eds.), Reflections on the Past : Essays in honour of Frances Lynch ( Welshpool 2012 ), 210-36.
- Possibly in a similar manner that the Lord of Dyffryn Iål & Ystrad Alun displayed his authority by wearing a ‘golden torc’ in the Middle Age. He was known as Llywelyn Eurdorchog (fl. 1100 ). A torc possibly plundered from a Bronze Age grave?
- E Davies, Prehistoric and Roman Remains of Denbighshire ( Cardiff 1949 ), 457.
Copyright of articles
published in Ystrad Alun lies with the Mold Civic Society and individual contributors.
Contents and opinions expressed therein
remains the responsibility of individual authors.