BY THE time you read this, the archaeologists who spent last week digging in Mold soil will be collating their finds.
This is the first serious investigation in more than half a century of the site where the world-famous Gold Cape was found and it coincided with Mold Finds Day, organised by local historian David Rowe.
I went along and found more than I bargained for.
Alice Forward, a Council for British Archaeology community archaeology trainee with the National Museum of Wales, took a break from scraping layers of history away to speak to the packed room at Mold Library.
She said: “The discovery of the Gold Cape proves Flintshire was a significant place in the bronze age.
“There are a number of burial mounds dotted around, which were dug into the ground and then capped with a heap of earth.
“Sometimes a ditch would be dug around the perimeter. Often the ditch is the only thing that is still visible as the mounts were ploughed in over the years by farmers.”
The site of the Gold Cape discovery has caused some confusion over the years but geophysics techniques, which look at the lay of the land beneath the surface, revealed some early assumptions might be close to the truth.
Alice said: “On the 1899 OS map of the area, there was a ‘x-marks-the-spot’. We were sceptical about this, because we wondered how accurate it would be as the map was created 60-odd years after the cape was found.
“But actually the geophysics showed up some interesting indications quite close to the ‘x’ and when we started digging, we found stones that had been transported on to the site, indicating that we might have found a burial cairn. So they might have got it right.”
By day four of the dig volunteers and staff were turning up exciting finds, including pieces of early pottery, which might give an indication of the age of the site, both by comparing styles of pottery already in museums and through carbon-dating methods.
Alice said: “This has all told us that this is a significant place, that someone was buried here and their life was celebrated.
“There would certainly have been people living, working, cooking and just being. It could have been a funeral site – but we aren’t sure yet.”
The cape has been relocated from the British Museum in London to the National Museum in Cardiff and, most recently, Wrexham Museum and Mark Lodwick, finds liaison officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme Cymru, believes the cape site and Mold generally warrant further investigation.
He said: “Loads of work has been done on the cape itself, but not here, which means we’re missing out on a lot of the context.”
While the cape itself has been variously interpreted as a chieftain’s armour or decoration for a horse, the current thinking is that it must have belonged to a woman or youth as it is too narrow to fit across the shoulders of a grown man and too soft for use in battle.
Mark said: “What we do is recover the voices of the past.
“The problem with this is that the woman who wore this – because it was probably a woman – has lost her voice. Everyone is talking about what she wore, not about the woman herself.”
Mark’s job is to record finds made by members of the public to help build up a picture of where the objects are found. He said: “If the items can be dated then so much the better – examples of weapons, jewellery and cookware can paint a more vivid picture of the past.
“I’m here to encourage people to get in touch if they come across a find – that’s how the Portable Antiquities Scheme came about.”
According to Mark, archaeologists have long struggled under outmoded practices like treasure trove, where legislators overseeing the ownership of a “hoard” have had to guess at the original owner’s intent.
Mark said: “Treasure trove only applied to ‘treasure’ buried with the intent of digging it back up again. It’s difficult to establish whether this is the case.
“We suspect now that a lot of the objects buried were done so for religious or votive reasons, which undermines the whole concept.”
The common-law term treasure trove was superseded by the Treasure Act 1996. This designated items “treasure” on the basis of their worth in precious metals, but neglected finds like textile remnants, carvings and non-precious metals as insignificant.
Mark said: “This isn’t a means by which the museum can acquire objects – it means we can collect data in a way that’s slightly different in Wales. We’re learning more about our history through projects like this.”