The Llyn Cerrig Bach hoard comprises over a hundred and fifty objects of bronze and iron. They were found at the time of the Second World War during the construction of the RAF airfield at Valley, Anglesey. Workmen discovered these objects whilst digging peat from the site of a former lake edge.
The collection includes seven swords, six spearheads, fragments of a shield, part of a bronze trumpet, two gang chains, fragments of iron wagon tyres and horse gear. In addition, blacksmith's tools, fragments of two cauldrons, iron bars for trading and animal bones were also found.
The range and size of the Llyn Cerrig Bach collection is of great importance to our understanding of Iron Age weaponry, metalworking, tools and the development of art-styles. This collection is comparable with the famous discovery of metalwork at La Tène on the edge of Lake Neuchètel, Switzerland.
The collection of valuable metal objects is interpreted as an offering to the gods or goddesses. Such votive offerings are part of a long tradition in the Bronze and Iron Ages in Wales.
The Roman historian Tacitus, describes Mona (Anglesey) as a centre of Druidical learning at the time of the Roman conquest (about AD60). The Druids are described as religious leaders, the priestly class of the Celtic Iron Age. Tacitus tells us that their sacred groves were destroyed at the time of the conquest:
At that time, however, Paulinus Suetonius was in charge of Britain. In military science and people's talk, which allows no one to be without envy, he rivalled Corbulo, and was anxious to equal the glorious recovery of Armenia by subduing enemies of the state. For this reason he prepared to attack the island of Mona [Anglesey] which had a large population and provided shelter for fugitives. Flat-bottomed boats were constructed to contend with the shallow water and shifting bottom, and in this way the infantry made the crossing. Then followed the cavalry, making use of fords or swimming beside their horses where the water was deeper.
Along the shore stood the enemy in a close-packed array of armed men interspersed with women dressed like Furies in funeral black, with streaming hair and brandishing torches. Round about were the Druids, their hands raised to heaven, pouring out dire curses. The Roman troops were so struck with dismay at this weird sight that they became rooted to the spot as though their limbs were paralysed and laid themselves open to wounds. Then, bolstered by the encouragements of their commander and urging one another not to be afraid of this mass of fanatical women, they advanced with their standards, cut down all they met, and enveloped them in the flames of their own torches. After this a garrison was imposed on the conquered natives, and the groves devoted to their savage rites cut down; for it was part of their religion to drench their altars with the blood of captives and to consult their gods by means of human entrails.
Tacitus Annals XIV, 29-30
Could Llyn Cerrig Bach have been a major focus of Druidical ritual? The presence of objects such as a trumpet, gang chains and so much military equipment suggests that this is not a site solely of local significance. The large numbers of weapons suggest that objects may have been offered before or after battle.
Recently the site has been re-assessed involving fieldwork, new illustrations and study of the artefacts, and chemical testing of the metalwork. Rather than representing a single depositional event, it now seems more likely that this was a religious site at which many small deposits were made, at periodic times spanning the period 300BC-AD100.