Wednesday, 15 October 2014

British Treasures - No.1

Mold, is an historic market town in Flintshire, North Wales. It sits in a fertile valley on the River Alyn between the Cwydian Mountains and the plains of Cheshire. The main street was once home to a Norman Motte and Bailey castle built in AD1093, and there is evidence of occupation by both the Romans and Saxons.
A Welsh legend speaks of sightings in the local hills of Bryn-yr-Ellyllon - Fairies' Hill or Goblins' Hill - a ghostly boy, clad in gold, a glittering apparition in the moonlight. Local citizens avoid the hill after dark, they have heard too many reports of sightings from travellers passing through their valley. 
In 1833, some workmen were digging a prehistoric mound to gather stones, and as they were working they uncovered a stone lined grave. In the grave were hundreds of amber beads, several bronze fragments, and the remains of a skeleton. Wrapped around the skeleton was a mysterious crushed object - a large and finely decorated broken sheet of pure gold.
via
Mold Gold Cape - British Museum, London
This stunning object is a golden cape decorated in a repoussé punched design giving the effect of strings of beads for the shoulders of a human being.  
Excited by the dazzling wealth of their find the workmen eagerly shared out pieces of the gold sheet. The tenant farmer, whose land it was on, taking the largest piece for himself. In 1833 there was little legal protection, and nobody would have known about the discovery if it had not been for the local vicar. Learning of the extraordinary find he wrote an account about it which in turn aroused the interest of the Society of Antiquaries hundreds of miles away in London.
The cape has been dated to the Bronze Age, around 4,000 years ago. It is not known who made it, but it was clearly made very skilled craftsmen. The elaborate design suggests a long tradition of crafting luxury items.
In the past it was easy to dismiss British prehistoric societies as primitive people existing before recognisable civilisations emerged; however, partly through the discovery of rare objects like this Mold Gold Cape, in recent years we have now come to view these societies rather differently.
information courtesy Neil MacGregor, Director British Museum, and wikipedia.

59 comments:

  1. There have been many civilizations over the world and I am always fascinated to see their high profiles of handcrafts. Last summer I was in Dublin and saw amazing goldworks from the Vikings found in the north of Ireland. There must be still so much treasures everywhere to explore. This is such a beautiful piece of art.

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    1. It is difficult to conceive that this beautiful golden cape is at least 4000 years old.

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  2. That is wonderful history Rosemary. I do wonder what is below the earth of great value, as time goes on I expect they shall be discovered.
    Regards,
    Margaet

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    1. Treasures seem to be turning up regularly in this country now that there are so many modern devices that can check just what is under our feet.

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  3. What a dazzling object. Thank goodness it wasn't melted down when it was found.

    Jean
    x

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  4. Wouldn't you just LOVE to find something like this?! Or the Staffordshire Hoard or something. Imagine coming across a treasure and realising you were the first person to see and touch it for hundreds, or in this case thousands, of years. Thanks for bringing it to the fore.

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    1. Our home is built on what was once a roman camp, and we did entertain the idea that it would be rather nice to dig something of interest up in the garden at one stage. Those thoughts came to an abrupt halt when we realised that our ground had only a few inches of soil and underneath it was solid oolithic limestone.

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  5. Saw this cape recently in the British Museum, it was incredible.

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    1. I am so pleased that you have actually seen it - such a wonderful treasure.

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  6. It is stunning! At first glance, I thought it was chainmail. I hope to see this treasure at the British Musuem one day. That and the V&A are my favorites in London.

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    1. I love the V & A and the Brtiish Museum too - do make a point of looking for it Loi.

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  7. Dear Rosemary,

    I'm so glad this extraordinary find was pieced back together and not melted down, as S&P mentioned. I suppose the workers who found it paused to consider how they would have to account for such sudden wealth.

    I have a book on the Celts and their gold work, including of course the Battersea shield, and there is no end to my appreciation for their gorgeous art. Would this be Celtic?

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    1. The Celts had a wonderful sense of design which has influenced many designers down the ages, I think particularly of Archibald Knox and his celtic inspired designs for the Liberty shop. I hope that I am correct in saying that the Celts were roughly 500BC and this cape dates from approximately 2000BC. It really is a remarkable piece of gold artistry.

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  8. Hello Rosemary, That gold cape is truly fantastic--I hope that the museum managed to get back all of the pieces. The Egyptians also used to depict rows of beads in a similar fashion. We should never be dismissive of early societies; the more these early finds are studied, the more sophistication we realize their makers possessed. (The recent fascinating discoveries at Stonehenge are a good case in point.)
    --Jim

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    1. Hello Jim - conservators at the British Museum did a painstaking job putting the cape back together again. Fortunately most of the bits from the cape were mostly there apart from a gap at the front which was filled with gilded copper plate. Some of the repoussé decoration had been flattened whilst in the ground, but when the conservator carefully pushed the decoration back into position with a wooden tool, the cape regained its original; curvature.

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  9. I've been to Mold but I had no idea. This is an absolutely beautiful object. Like you I am really amazed at some of the work that people could do centuries ago without modern tools and facilities, when people would struggle today to do the same kind of work with all the help technology can give. . .

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    1. You are the fortunate one Jenny for you can pop into the British Museum and see it. It is beyond my comprehension how such a beautiful object could be made during what was supposed to be the dark ages.

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    1. I agree with you - it is a wonderful work in gold.

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  11. Hello Rosemary,
    Thank you for youre comment on my blog...the commant button was for a wile off...I had so little time too read and give a commant on other blogs, that I found it fair too put the button off.
    But now I'am back and the button is on.

    Have a nice week,
    Inge, my choice

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    1. Thank you for letting me know Inge - I thought it was something to do with me that I could not access it.

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  12. This truly is exquisite and thank goodness it was saved for posterity. P x

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    1. A bit of fortuitous luck was on the side of this cape in the form of the vicar otherwise it would have been lost forever.

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  13. It is an amazing piece of craftsmanship isn't it, and so beautiful too. xx

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  14. What a beautiful object and a fascinating story.

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    1. It makes you wonder what other treasures lie underneath our feet.

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  15. I saw this at the British Museum last year and was absolutely transfixed by it.
    We live close to an old Roman settlement and have found a couple of Roman coins in our garden but sadly nothing more!

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    1. Lucky you - I would love to discover a Roman coin or two - all I ever find is the odd 1p

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  16. Wow. And amazingly, having been shared out, it was all pieced back together. I went to the British Museum yesterday. Next time I go, I shall look this up.

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  17. A real show stopper, fantastic piece , thanks for showing it !

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    1. Glad that you enjoyed seeing this treasure Jane.

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  18. That's a lot of gold.

    Greetings,
    Filip

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  19. Beeindruckend, eine spannende Geschichte steckt dahinter...Liebe Grüße schickt Dir dani

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    1. Danke Dani - Ich freue mich, dass Sie hatten Spass mit diesen wunderbaren goldenen Umhang und seine Geschichte

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  20. Dear Rosemary,
    this golden cape looks beautiful - and how sad that it was first destroyed by greed. How did they find the parts again after all this time, to bring them to the British Museum?
    Just read about the wonderful find in Scotland - there is always still something to discover, wonderful.

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    1. The parts were found almost immediately because of the local vicar alerting the London Society of Antiquaries in 1833. The pieces remained in the care of the British Museum for about 130 years whilst experts studied them and wondered how they fitted together, they didn't know exactly what it was until a Conservator in the 1960s managed to solve the riddle. Not only had it been broken up but it had been crushed through being in the grave for thousands of years.

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  21. This is totally stunning - a wonderful find to be sure.

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  22. Amazing...so much gold! Would love to have it :)
    Warm hug,
    Titti

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    1. It is hard to believe that it is over 4000 years old.

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  23. Stunning artwork and a great story. So did they reassemble all the pieces to make this?
    Also I sometimes wonder what we would leave behind from our society if something cataclysmic happened..some dead laptops?

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    1. It is all original apart from the small area in the centre bottom that you can see. Yes, the same question crosses my mind, but usually in connection with architecture, especially when visiting the wonders left behind by the Romans and the Greeks

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  24. The mold gold cape is stunningly beautiful, Rosemary, and what a great story. It is hard to believe it was made some 4,000 years ago, when craftsmen were obviously much more skilled than we were once led to believe. Archaeology is so fascinating.

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    1. It is a beautiful treasure Patricia - it makes you wonder how many other things are lying under the ground hidden from view.

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  25. I can only imagine their excitement at such a discovery. Thank goodness the Vicar saw the importance of reporting it!

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    1. When I see some of the antiquities on the Antique Roadshow that people have found whilst digging their gardens their excitement is infectious. Today though you have to report it to the necessary authorities

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  26. Thank you for your lovely comment on my blog and how interesting to hear you have a child in Paris too! Off to look at your blogposts now...
    Julie x

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  27. I have always wanted to see this - and the many other treasures in the British Museum, but it's a bit far for a day out from Carmarthenshire! This is just superb, and when you think of the workmanship carried out in very basic working conditions - e.g. natural light and basic tools - you can only marvel at the skills, but craftsmen were valued members of society and presumably just made high-status stuff to order. What intrigues me is the haunted hillside - as if this was meant to be found.

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    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting - The haunted hillside stories of the past do seem to have been an omen. You must try and treat yourself to a couple of days in London - you need plenty of time to visit the British Museum.

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  28. That's very true (the couple of days that is). WHEN our lovely old historic Welsh farmhouse sells then we will be heading for Herefordshire, and can catch the coach up to London for a day out. That will be very worthwhile.

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    1. Good luck with your house sale - Herefordshire is a lovely area.

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  29. Beautiful! Thank goodness it was not lost forever.

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    1. It makes you wonder what else might be lying beneath the ground.

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  30. Though Mold is not so very far from us, I'd never heard of the Mold Gold Cape, Rosemary, so this was fascinating. I've now just read the article on the British museum website on how the cape was reassembled and preserved.

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