Buried treasure: calls for important Welsh artefacts to be brought back home
When an archaeologist shone a spotlight on a beautiful Welsh bronze-age shield, calls went up for important Welsh artefacts to be brought back from English museums to their homeland.
Alison Fisk tweeted an image of the Rhos Rhydd shield which was found in Ceredigion but is now on display at the British Museum.
The 3000-year-old intricately decorated shield was crafted from a single bronze plate and was found in a bog near Blaenplwyf near Aberystwyth in 1804.
Thought to be a ceremonial artefact rather than used for battle, it was last displayed in Wales in Swansea’s Glynn Vivian Art Gallery in 1964.
The post triggered a flurry of tweets showing other significant Welsh artefacts which are not on display in Wales, calling for their return.
The fabulous Rhos Rydd Bronze Age shield. Skillfully crafted about 3,000 years ago, from a single plate of bronze, decorated with 3700 singly punched bosses. For ceremonial use rather than combat. Found in a bog near Blaenplwyf, Wales in 1804. #Archaeology pic.twitter.com/K3sppuniF5
— Alison Fisk (@AlisonFisk) September 23, 2021
One retweeter questioned why Welsh national treasures are being enjoyed by tourists in London museums and called for their return to Welsh heritage collections.
Another observer commented: “These artefacts are key parts of our nation’s history. Their rightful place is in our museums. We shouldn’t be complacent about these treasures of our long past being held by a neighbouring country. Our children need to see these and wonder at them. Let’s have them back.”
Major Welsh archaeological finds which are held in the British Museum include the Mold Cape, the Llanllyfni lunula, a Welsh buckler shield from Wrexham and the Moel Hebog shield.
The Moel Hebog shield was found near Beddgelert in 1784 and is also housed in the British Museum but is not currently on display. The last time it was exhibited was in Singapore in 2016.
The Mold Cape was discovered in 1833 by workmen quarrying for stone in a burial mound. At the centre of the mound there was a stone-lined grave with the crushed gold cape around the fragmentary remains of a skeleton.
It is housed in the British Museum, though again not on display, and according to the website: “It is one of the finest examples of prehistoric sheet-gold working and was laboriously beaten out of a single ingot of gold, and then embellished with intense decoration of ribs and bosses to mimic multiple strings of beads amid folds of cloth.”
The Llanllyfni lunula can be seen through National Museum of Wales online collections but is housed by the British Museum.
The Red “Lady” of Paviland is on display at the Museum of Natural History in Oxford and the National Museum of Wales has a replica of the remains of the mammoth hunter found in Goat’s Hole, or Paviland Cave, on Gower in 1823.
Similarly, the Trawsfynydd Tankard is in the National Museum in Liverpool with a specially commissioned replica on display at the Llys Ednowian Heritage Centre in Trawsfynydd.