Bronze Age Gold from Wales

Middle Bronze Age gold bracelet

Middle Bronze Age decorated gold bracelet fragment.

This decorated gold strip fragment is thought to be the end fragment once belonging to a bracelet. The design, created by using a stamp, was intended to create a twisting effect resembling four twisted gold wires. A perforation at the centre of the flat-ended terminal was probably used to tie together the bracelet around the wrist, using braid or gold wires. Analysis of the metal indicates a composition of around 80% of gold, also with lesser silver and copper components. This signature is similar to other gold artefacts from Wales of Middle Bronze Age date.

This bracelet is unusual and the only one of its kind from Wales. Similar bronze bracelets with ribbed and stamped decoration are known from southern England and Ireland. Further sheet gold bracelets, of broadly similar ribbed form and technology, are also known from southern England and Ireland.

Tybir mai un pen o freichled oedd y stribed hwn o aur addurnedig ar un adeg. Crëwyd y patrwm troellog gan ddefnyddio stamp er mwyn iddo edrych fel pedair gwifren aur droellog. Mae’n debyg bod y twll yng nghanol y pen gwastad wedi cael ei ddefnyddio i glymu’r freichled o amgylch yr arddwrn, gan ddefnyddio gwifrau plethog neu aur. Ar ôl dadansoddi’r metel, gwelwyd bod 80% ohono’n aur, gydag elfennau llai o arian a chopr. Mae’r cyfansoddiad hwn yn debyg i arteffactau aur eraill yng Nghymru o Ganol yr Oes Efydd.

Mae’r freichled hon yn anarferol a’r unig un o’i bath yng Nghymru. Rydym yn gwybod am freichledau efydd tebyg ag addurnwaith rhesog a stampiedig yn ne Lloegr ac Iwerddon. Rydym hefyd yn gwybod am freichledau eurlen eraill, sy’n eithaf tebyg o ran ffurf resog a thechnoleg, yn ne Lloegr ac Iwerddon.

This rich and varied group of bronze and gold objects was once carefully buried together as a hoard group. Dating to the Middle Bronze Age (1400-1275 BCE) it includes fragments from at least two twisted bronze neck-rings, a variety of bronze and gold bracelets and a large bronze dress-pin, also buried with a bronze dagger and a palstave axe. A first for Wales, similar ornaments and hoards have been found across southern England and northern France. This suggests that the original wearer maintained long-distance cultural connections and shared common stylistic trends.

Cafodd y gwrthrychau efydd ac aur cyfoethog ac amrywiol hyn eu claddu gyda’i gilydd yn ofalus fel celc ar un adeg. Maen nhw’n dyddio o Ganol yr Oes Efydd (1400-1275 CC) ac yn cynnwys darnau o ddwy dorch efydd droellog o leiaf, amrywiaeth o freichledau efydd ac aur a phin gwisg efydd mawr, a oedd hefyd wedi’u claddu gyda dagr efydd a bwyell balstaf. Dyma’r tro cyntaf i dlysau a chelc o’r fath gael eu canfod yng Nghymru, ond mae rhai tebyg wedi’u canfod yn ne Lloegr a gogledd Ffrainc. Mae hyn yn awgrymu bod y sawl a oedd yn eu gwisgo’n wreiddiol yn cynnal cysylltiadau diwylliannol ar draws pellter hir ac yn rhannu steil gyffredin.

TECHNICAL DESCRIPTION This is a highly decorated gold strip, with one surviving and slightly convex terminal, which has been carefully shaped and smoothed along its edge. A small pin perforation is located near the terminal at mid-width across the strip. The perforation is 0.4mm in diameter, centring approximately 0.7mm from the terminal edge of the strip. The perforation is not perfectly round having hexagonal facets with rounded edges. At the opposite end, the strip has been deliberately cut with a straight bladed tool, such as a knife. On one side, linear grooves indicate unsuccessful cut marks partly through the metal and at a slight angle to the cut edge.

Four parallel linear zones of punch or stamp decoration in repeated flattened S-shaped motifs have been applied along the long axis of the strip. Each punch or stamp mark and linear zone is approximately 0.5-0.6mm wide, each line approximately 0.5-0.6mm apart, making a combined decorated width of approximately 4.5mm. The overall effect is to resemble twisted wire stranding, but in one integral piece. Soil still adheres within many of the stamp motifs, thereby concealing some of the detail in the decoration. Further cleaning and analysis would need to be undertaken to determine whether the bronze stamp used had single or multiple repeating groups of motifs.

While the back of the strip is flat, the upper decorated face has been grooved between each stamp zone and creating defined plain strip margins, approximately 0.6mm wide. The grooves are wide and curved, setting the stamped decoration in relief and creating a corrugated effect on the front face. This combination of grooving of decorative upper surface with a flat back suggests that the gold may have been cast, since repoussé working from the back surface would have created a corrugated sheet, here absent. The strip margin on one side is wider and the grooving more pronounced, though it is difficult to know whether this was intentional and relating to the function of the object, or not.

On the plain reverse side, it appears that the edges have been hammered over slightly, as evidenced by slight thickening and over-folding. Slight and regular linear depressions along the surface are probably related to the stamping of the strip. Around the terminal perforation, punched from the front of the strip, the excess gold has been smoothed or filed down.

Project Title: Gold in Britain’s auriferous regions, 2450-800 BC: towards a coherent Research Framework and Strategy. Status: Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Network Grant funded project (2018-2019)

Collection Area

Archaeology & Numismatics

Item Number

2016.31H/1

Find Information

Site Name: Llantrisant Fawr, Monmouthshire

Collection Method: metal detector
Date: 2013 / September

Notes: The hoard was discovered in 2013 by Phillip Turton, while he was metal-detecting on farm land under pasture, in Llantrisant Fawr Community, Monmouthshire. He responsibly reported the discovery and findspot to the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales as a treasure find. With the help of the finder, an archaeological investigation of the findspot was undertaken by museum archaeologists in 2013. The hoard was subsequently declared to be treasure by the Coroner for Gwent in 2015. It was later acquired in 2016 for the national collection, with the help of grant funding provided by the Saving Treasures; Telling Stories project (Collecting Cultures Programme) funded through the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Cafodd y celc ei ddarganfod yn 2013 gan Phillip Turton, wrth iddo ddefnyddio datgelydd metel ar dir pori yng Nghymuned Llantrisant Fawr, Sir Fynwy. Yn gyfrifol iawn, fe roddodd wybod i’r Cynllun Henebion Cludadwy yng Nghymru am y trysor a’r man lle’r oedd wedi’i ddarganfod. Gyda’i gymorth ef, fe gynhaliodd archaeolegwyr yr amgueddfa ymchwiliad archaeolegol o’r man darganfod yn 2013. Wedi hynny, cafodd y celc ei gyhoeddi’n drysor gan Grwner Gwent yn 2015. Yn ddiweddarach, cafodd ei brynu yn 2016 ar gyfer y casgliad cenedlaethol, gyda chymorth cyllid grant gan y prosiect Hel Trysor; Her Straeon (y Rhaglen Casglu Diwylliannau) sy’n cael ei ariannu trwy Gronfa Dreftadaeth y Loteri Genedlaethol. The artefacts were discovered in a dispersed scatter over a distance of 55m, though with a central focus. An archaeological investigation of the find-spot was undertaken by Adam Gwilt and Mark Lodwick on 26th September 2013, confirming the find-spots and burial focus. The burial focus was located at the top of a low hill plateau with good views up and down the Usk Valley. The scattered find-spots extending downslope, suggesting more dispersal of the hoard, probably in recent times.

Acquisition

Treasure (1996 Treasure Act), 21/11/2016

Measurements

length / mm:38.9
width / mm:7.0
thickness / mm:0.3

Material

gold

Location

In store
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