Amgueddfa Blog: Archaeology

As we are sure you are aware, there's a lot that goes on behind the scenes at the National Museum of Wales, including research, conservation and work experience. This week is Student Volunteering Week and in honor of this, we have taken the time to find out a little bit more about one of our interns, Eirini...


Profile

Name: Eirini Anagnostou

Job title/ Role: Intern

Department: History and Archaeology, National Museum Cardiff


Where you are you from?

Greece

What are you studying?

I am a student of Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, studying Archaeology and History of Art

Why did you choose to study Archaeology and History of Art?

I've been interested in Art since high school, particularly Contemporary but also Renaissance and Byzantine art and I am also interested in cultural history and civilisations.

What are you doing here?

Erasmus+ placement programme, working as an intern updating the Portable Antiquities Scheme Cymru database – I’ve worked here for 2 months so far!

What are your main duties?

Using the Photoshop programme and processing images of artefacts found by mainly metal detectorists to go on the PAS database.

Next week I will be doing some photography, and working on developing stories on a collection of Ancient Greek coins. I am also hoping to have input into the development of an exhibition concept.

Why did you come to Cardiff?

I visited Cardiff three years ago and I liked the city. I chose the National Museum because it is one of the biggest museums in the UK. I think it’s a good experience for my personal development and future aspirations.

Are you enjoying your time in Cardiff?

Yes, Cardiff is a lovely city with friendly people. There are many things to do and a beautiful castle!

What have you enjoyed the most about working at NMW?

The working environment here is very friendly and helpful. I’ve learnt a lot and I’ve had the opportunity to see the galleries – I was amazed at the extensive collection of Impressionist paintings!

Have you seen anything that’s not currently on display that particularly interested you?

I’ve never seen so many artefacts before – I’ve never seen bones and prehistoric artefacts like those collected in the museum’s stores, and I enjoyed having the opportunity to see them.

What do you hope to learn from this experience?

I hope to learn how a museum works because I’d like to do a Masters in Museum Studies and possibly become a curator. I am still deciding where to study for my Masters degree. I also am enjoying experiencing living abroad and I hope to continue travelling for a couple more years.

To see more content related to the Portable Antiquites Scheme and the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project, a project currently working with PAS and local metal detectorists and communities to record all archaeological findings, click here.

Swansea has a whole host of treasures just lying within its midst, from the Red Lady of Paviland to the 4200 year old flint dagger that formed the basis for Saving Treasures; Telling Stories first Community Archaeology project, ‘The Lost Treasures of Swansea Bay’. With the rip roaring tides, miles of beaches and hidden caves waiting to be discovered, you’d expect the sea (for which the city is named) to occasionally stir up something significant; but what about an unassuming Welsh livestock farm? Doesn’t sound like the setting for a major archaeological discovery, does it? Suprisingly, that’s exactly where local man, Geoff Archer, picked up one half of a Middle Bronze Age copper-alloy palstave axe mould dating somewhere between 1400-1200 BC.

It was over two decades ago when Geoff first picked up a metal detector, having first taken it up as a hobby after he got married. But it wasn’t until he retired last year that he was able to really get out into the field, and armed with a pair of wellies and a brand spanking new detector, he decided to venture to one of his old jaunts – a farm not far from his home.

“Over the last few nights I’d been thinking about going to the farm and something was telling me to go to the right hand side of it, just to walk the fields,” he explains, “so that’s what I did.” After traipsing around in the mud for a few hours, Geoff stumbled upon a patch of uneven terrace he couldn’t help but investigate.

Unearthing History

“I got to the lumpy, bumpy parts, had a couple of signals – nothing much.” But then Geoff had another signal, “a cracking signal” and realised it was time to dig around in the dirt to find out what it was. Figuring it would just be another case of random odds and sods, or a coke bottle lid (they find an abundance of litter!) he was surprised to hear a clunk.

“I hit this bloomin’ great big stone, so I dug around it, lifted up a clod of earth” and underneath yet another stone he noticed something interesting inside the muddy cave, something not made of rock. “What the heck’s that?” he thought, picking up the oddity with care. 

“I pulled it out and on the back end of the mould there’s, like, ribs.” This prompted Geoff to recall a discovery he made about 15 years ago, when he wasn’t so rehearsed in Bronze Age metalwork.

“Going back, must be about 15 years ago, I found an item - I didn’t know what it was. I wasn’t experienced enough then. So this item, I took it home and I put it in the garage, as most detectorists do!” He had a feeling it was important but wasn’t sure why.

After a few years of picking the item up off his work bench and trying to decipher its meaning, Geoff decided to take it up to the kitchen and do some research. “So I started buying books to research Roman, believe it or not, alright? So, I bought this book and I was looking through it. I got to the part for the Stone Age, read that. Then I got to the Bronze Age, and I turned a couple of pages and there was the item I’d found! Bronze Age Axe Head. My jaw just dropped, right? And the Bronze Age Axe Head had ribs on the outside.”

Devastatingly, Geoff has misplaced the axe head, which he is now, more than ever, desperate to locate – and even more upsetting still, it’s the same type of axe as the mould he discovered 15 years later would have been built to make. “It’s what they call a loop, I think it’s got two loops on this one, each side, where they used to put, if you can imagine, the Bronze Age axe head. It’s flat, but this part at the back, its round and they put it over the wood and then they loop it, they tie it onto the wood to secure it.”

Monumental findings

When Geoff uncovered the mould, he immediately realised its importance thanks to his previous finding – but he still wasn’t entirely certain of what it was he’d discovered. “On the inside of the mould, there’s like a round piece, like in the middle part. I honestly thought at that time that it was a bit off a tractor, because it was so… the engineering of it, the precision engineering of it! But in the back of my mind I was thinking it can’t be off a tractor because it’s got these ribs at the back from this Bronze Age axe that I found.”

After digging out some modelling clay and experimenting, he came to the realisation that what he’d found was an axe head mould. Geoff phoned up one of his buddies at Swansea Metal Detectorist Club for a second opinion and after a positive diagnosis by them both, he took it along to a club meeting.

“As it so happened, it was our ‘Find of the Month’ meeting!” Geoff explains. “So I won find of the month for the artefact and Steve, our Finds Liaison Officer, said ‘you’d better show this to someone in Cardiff because they are going to be interested.’ So, photographs were sent to Cardiff [National Museum of Wales] and they wanted to see it. I went with Steve to Cardiff and the mould’s been there ever since!”

Mark Lodwick, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) Cymru Co-Ordinator at The National Museum of Wales in Cardiff confirmed Geoff’s identification and has recorded the item so it can be used in further research and study.

Under the Treasure Act, the mould isn’t classed as ‘treasure’, so why is it so special? “It’s the only one that’s been found in South West Wales,” Geoff enthuses, “and it’s the second one that’s been found in Wales. The other one was found in a hoard of axes in Bangor in the 1950’s, so this is the first one that’s been found since then!”

Preserving the past

Geoff is in utter disbelief that he was the one to stumble across the important artefact, which has been conserved at the National Museum of Wales, Cardiff, but, eventually he’d like it to end up back home at Swansea Museum.

Having reported the axe mould to the museum, Geoff sees this as an important part of his role as a treasure hunter. Letting other people view the item, he says, “gives other people a chance to understand about their locality, of what’s been going on.”

“I think it opens up a new chapter in [Swansea’s history]. There’s a bit of history regarding the Bronze Age but to find something like an axe making product in Swansea, which has never been found before - it opens up a new chapter of where these people were living and how far were they living on the fields of that farm,” explains Geoff. “That’s my quest now I suppose, is to try and find out – keep walking the fields and I might find the other half, I don’t know.”

With hopes of the axe mould ending up in Swansea Museum, Geoff is keen that people will be interested in viewing his remarkable find. “The more publicity it gets the better!” he says. “The more people who know about this the better as far as I am concerned, because it’s the first one to be found in South West Wales and the second one to ever be found in Wales – so don’t tell me that’s not important.”

To discover more about Swansea’s Bronze Age history and see some fascinating Neolithic archaeological artefacts visit Swansea Museum, entry is free!

Words: Alice Pattillo

What’s it all about?

‘Buried in the Borderlands’ is a brilliant Community Archaeology Project at Wrexham Museum, funded by the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories Project.

It’s based on the recent acquisition of a hoard of 15th century gold and silver coins and a gold and sapphire ring, known as the Bronington Hoard, found by local metal detectorists.

The project is working with the local community, inspiring creative responses to the material heritage on their doorstep, which will go on display in March 2018.

This post introduces two museum volunteers who have been working on the project.

Leon and Tom’s story

Hello everyone, we’re Leon and Tom. We’ve been working recently on the very exciting Buried in the Borderlands project with Wrexham Museums and Archives.

The two of us are currently studying AS Levels at The Maelor School, Penley. I (Leon) am studying Biology, Chemistry and Maths whilst Tom is studying Politics, English Literature and Psychology.

But we have one subject in common, that’s History!

We’ve both always loved history, from learning about the World Wars, to the history of Wrexham county. That’s why we are thrilled to be volunteering with the Bronington Hoard.

We get to learn about the history of the Maelor, complete our Community Challenge for the Welsh Baccalaureate, and work with all our Friends at Wrexham Museum. Win, win, win.

We’ll keep you up-to-date with our progress as part of our Blog every 1 to 2 weeks.

We look forward to your feedback and hope you’re as ecstatic as we are for the arrival of the Bronington Hoard in March 2018. 

 

Stori Leon a Tom

Helo bawb, Leon a Tom ydym ni. Rydym ni wedi bod yn gweithio ar brosiect cyffrous Yn Gudd yn y Gororau yn ddiweddar gydag Amgueddfa ac Archifau Wrecsam.

Mae’r ddau ohonom ni’n astudio Lefel AS yn Ysgol Maelor ar hyn o bryd. Rydw i (Leon) yn astudio Bywydeg, Cemeg a Mathemateg tra bod Tom yn astudio Gwleidyddiaeth, Llenyddiaeth Saesneg a Seicoleg.

Ond mae gennym un pwnc yn gyffredin, sef Hanes!

Mae’r ddau ohonom ni yn mwynhau hanes, o ddysgu am y ddau Ryfel Byd, i hanes bwrdeistref Wrecsam. Dyna pam ein bod wrth ein boddau yn gwirfoddoli gyda Chelc Is-y-Coed.

Rydym ni’n cael dysgu am hanes Maelor, cwblhau Her y Gymuned ar gyfer Bagloriaeth Cymru, a gweithio gyda’n ffrindiau yn Amgueddfa Wrecsam. Mae pawb ar eu hennill.

Fe fyddwn ni’n eich diweddaru gyda’n cynnydd yn rhan o’n Blog bob 1 i 2 wythnos.

Edrychwn ymlaen at glywed eich adborth a gobeithio eich bod chi'r un mor hapus â ni y bydd Celc Is-y-Coed yn cyrraedd ym mis Mawrth 2018. 

Forget Raindrops on roses, you can keep your whiskers on kittens…

With such varied collections that we have in the museum I can’t help noticing some fabulous objects.

Thanks to players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we have had funding so we can enhance records and add images for you to view in Collections Online, soon you’ll be able to search the museum catalogue and discover your own favourite things.

These are a few of my favourites:

Image in chalk pastel on paper of Welsh rugby player scoring a try against the All Blacks

The Try that Beat the All Blacks by Frank Gillett (1874 – 1927)

What a fabulous picture this is! (I may be a little biased). This picture shows the first ever test match between the Wales and New Zealand rugby teams in 1905. Wales won 3 – 0 (a try was only worth 3 points in those days rather than 5 points as it is now).

Seated figurine of a mouse holding a disc

Roman copper alloy figurine of a mouse

This lovely little mouse (only 3cm high) was found in Loughor, or Leucarum as the Romans knew it. Is it nibbling some cheese, or has it found a biscuit somewhere?

Locomotive painted bright yellow and black

Electric locomotive

It might look like something from Thunderbirds, but this is an electric locomotive used in Glamorgan Haematite Iron Ore Mine (Llanharry Iron Ore Mine) from the 1960s. These locomotives replaced the use of horses for haulage in the mine.

Section of blue damask fabric with intricate silver thread embroidery

Close up of court mantua fabric

This shows detail of a dress from the 1720s. This is a very grand court dress (known as a mantua) which would have been worn for presentation at court by Lady Rachel Morgan the wife of Sir William Morgan of Tredegar House. Just look at the incredibly detailed embroidered silver thread on silk damask. The best thing about it I think, is that it was altered during the 19th century by one of Lady Rachel’s descendants, probably to wear as fancy dress! The dress will be on display in the new galleries at St Fagans National Museum of History in the autumn of 2018.

Jug with a cut out trellis-like design of circles and lozenges at the top, with a ring around neck from which protrude three bulbous spouts.

Puzzle jug made by the Cambrian Pottery c. 1800

What’s the puzzle about this puzzle jug? Try and pour from it, and you’ll end up with beer all over the place. To find out how these were made, and importantly, how you’d use it, check out this video by the V&A museum.

If you want to see more of the collections you can explore online or come and visit one of our museums. Not all of our items are on display, so before you make a special trip to see something specific, check that it’s on display first.

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The photography department at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales looks after images for all of the seven museum sites including the Archaeology department. That means taking new photographs of archaeological objects, and scanning historical photographs (e.g. prints and slides).

Here’s an example of how both are used.

Segontium Roman Fort, Caernarfon

These photos from the 1920s show the excavations at Segontium led by Sir Mortimer Wheeler, the then Keeper of Archaeology and later Director of National Museum Wales. They were scanned from glass plates. Here’s a few of the 102 images from this collection:

Black and white photograph of excavations

Cellar in the Headquarters building (praetorium)

Black and white photograph of excavations

Headquarters building (praetorium) during excavations in the 1920s

Black and white photograph of group of people visiting excavations

Sir Mortimer Wheeler (left) showing visiting dignitaries around the site including Lady Lloyd George (front right)

The photographs may be of use to modern archaeologists interpreting the site, but personally I like spotting the shadow of the photographer and his tripod (we’ve all managed to do that haven’t we?) and checking out those fabulous 1920s hats!

Here’s where modern photography comes in. The following images were taken recently of objects from the 1920s excavations.

Roman flagon

Flagon found at Segontium, but produced in Oxfordshire will be on display in the new galleries at St Fagans National Museum of History

Stone alter with latin inscription

The Goddess of war must have protected someone in their time of need, in return he vowed to dedicate an altar to her which was found in the strong room of the Headquarters building. It reads: To the goddess Minerva Aurelius Sabinianus, actarius, willingly and deservedly fulfilled his vow.

The images are digitally archived so that they’re accessible for use in exhibitions, publications, presentations and online.

 

Some of the finds from Segontium will be on display in the new galleries at St Fagans National Museum of History opening in 2018.

You can see more historic photographs here.

Learn more about Segontium Roman Fort on Amgueddfa Cymru’s website or on the Cadw website.

With support from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery, we’re working hard getting our collections online so you can search our object database and see information and images of the collections for yourself.

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