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Buried treasure: calls for important Welsh artefacts to be brought back home

25 Sep 2021 3 minutes Read
The Mold Cape. Picture by Mark Ramsay (CC BY 2.0)

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.

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.

Prehistoric

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.

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Quornby
Quornby
21 days ago

Just like the theft of the Elgin Marbles, the London establishment thought it could do as it pleased with other nation’s property…… A bit like the modern equivalent of free water and electricity from Wales. London never changes, it’s time for us to go.

Gareth Wyn Jones
Gareth Wyn Jones
21 days ago
Reply to  Quornby

Looting is all Westminster knows let’s get them back

Sion Tomos
Sion Tomos
21 days ago

Except that none of these were looted they were all sold by their rightful owners to the British Museum as it was the only safe place for them at the time. I’m not arguing that they shouldn’t be returned to Wales but comparing them to the Elgin Marbles or the Benin Bronzes as some have done only harms our case.

Owain Morgan
Owain Morgan
20 days ago
Reply to  Sion Tomos

Owners?! Define owners?

Sion Tomos
Sion Tomos
20 days ago
Reply to  Owain Morgan

In most of these cases it would have been the original landowners or the discoverers, possibly being sold to other people before they were sold or gifted to the British Museum.

Mark
Mark
21 days ago

This is how colonialists work, they “discover” important historical objects and steal them away for their museums or even worse private collections.

William Glyn THOMAS
William Glyn THOMAS
21 days ago

All looted goods should be returned to their lawful owners and not displayed in the ROBBER’s museums

Wrexhamian
Wrexhamian
21 days ago

In fairness, there are two significant reasons why these Welsh artefacts ended up in England, namely no National Museum of Wales until 1912, and a legally-sanctioned englandandwales outlook, so I hesitate to call it looting, unless a find was made after the National Museum was established. Either way, of course it must all come back to Cymru. London, Oxford and Liverpool can have facsimiles if they want. Liverpool owe us big, remember.

Sion Tomos
Sion Tomos
21 days ago

None of these were looted though they were sold by their owners to museums in England as they were the only safe places at the time. That does not mean they shouldn’t be returned though they belong as close as feasably possible to their find site.

Mandi A
Mandi A
21 days ago

Battle we had with Cardiff to keep some of the Llyn Cerrig Bach hoard up on Anglesey, the Penmaenmawr bronze vessel luckily found by keen clergymen archaeologists before the sites were quarried out, all tucked away in the great vaults of NMW, not even a photograph on Collections Online. We have our own internal colonialism to deal with.

Owain Glydwr
Owain Glydwr
21 days ago
Reply to  Mandi A

The Nationalists are upset by your truths.

Rhosddu
Rhosddu
21 days ago
Reply to  Owain Glydwr

It’s certainly true that Gogled Cymru has less attentiion paid to it by the Welsh Government, but surely no-one would argue against keeping a Welsh artefact of historic national importance in a major national repository in this country? At least it stayed here.

Mandi A
Mandi A
20 days ago
Reply to  Rhosddu

No-one’s arguing, just would be nice to actually see our heritage. Maybe if Drakeford’s NMW North comes to pass, works of art can be circulated.

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago

At least the Llyn Cerrig Bach hoard is split between Llangefni and Caerdydd, even if NMW keep it hidden !

I noticed there was a program on the telly the other day about a dive on the Bronze Bell Wreck from a boat out of Pwllheli but no mention of the Bronze Bell Wreck museum above Davy Jones’ Locker in Barmouth…

Last edited 21 days ago by Mab Meirion
Glyn Morgan
Glyn Morgan
21 days ago

Dere gatre. Come on home.

Cai Wogan Jones
Cai Wogan Jones
21 days ago

The greatest treasure I should like to see returned is the Teilo Gospel, now in Lichfield Cathedral. A work of exquisite beauty and immense cultural significance. Its proper home is Llandeilo. It contains various marginal inscriptions written in Latin and Old Welsh, which are some of the earliest extant written Welsh.

After that, the Red Book of Hergest, now in Jesus College, Oxford.

Last edited 21 days ago by Cai Wogan Jones
Ralph
Ralph
21 days ago

Nice idea to return Welsh treasures to Wales (though judging from the exhibition in Wales’ National Museum I wonder whether it would be appreciated there). Alternative: The British Museum creates a Welsh dependence in an area like Ceredigion, similar to the Louvre-Lens; this would bring back Welsh finds and create local jobs (also for archaeologists) and a new tourist attraction which would generate even more jobs…

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
21 days ago
Reply to  Ralph

Lets start from the premise that large national museums are wealthy, greedy, grasping hoarders and that the idea of sharing comes a distant second. How national treasures could and should be shared needs a fresh approach. First repatriate those items ‘liberated’ back to their country or place of origin. For Wales thoughtful international tourism is a must, one of the many sadnesses of brexit is the loss of a growing legion of Europeans discovering and falling in love with Wales, not just the castles of the conqueror or the palaces and gaping holes left by the extractive robber barons but… Read more »

Dafydd ap Robart
Dafydd ap Robart
20 days ago
Reply to  Mab Meirion

Cytuno. Ond beth yw’r broblem gyda Sain Ffagan?

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
19 days ago

Example…there used to be a rare Cambrian Railways signal box in Barmouth, it was removed to Llangollen…a great loss to Barmouth !

I did hesitate, as I treasure my copy of The Welsh House by Iorwerth C. Peate and all his other works on my book shelves and the fantastic work he did in saving the vernacular architecture etc of Wales.

If only Barmouth (maybe the only town in Wales with four names) had not trashed its best buildings in the 70’s, but that is another story…

If it was in the middle of the country…

Last edited 19 days ago by Mab Meirion
Y Cymro
Y Cymro
20 days ago

This will never happen. What’s ours is theirs. If the Elgin Marbles that were stolen from Greece are refused repatriation back, Wales hasn’t a hope in hell. Remember when John Major and stale English Tory Government in 1996 gave back the Stone of Scone to the people of Scotland. Do you think Wales would receive similar pomp & ceremony. Wales is ripe for picking not giving. The evidence. The British Museum: They hold the Red Lady of Paviland skeleton, one of Europe’s oldest known Ceremonial burials, dating 34,000 yrs back to when the first modern humans. Their excuse? Wales never… Read more »

Last edited 20 days ago by Y Cymro
j humphrys
j humphrys
20 days ago
Reply to  Y Cymro

Even mighty China has trouble getting stuff back, hence Boris’s U Boats? But take note folks, this will end badly if they don’t wise up: Eurasia is coming!
btw “Pais Dinogad” can be heard on You Tube. Very Beautiful song.

Last edited 20 days ago by j humphrys
Dafydd ap Robart
Dafydd ap Robart
20 days ago
Reply to  j humphrys
Andrew
Andrew
20 days ago

Oh by the way, Sutton Hoo is not Anglo.

Sion Tomos
Sion Tomos
20 days ago
Reply to  Andrew

Since it is generally believed to be the resting place of Rædwald king of East Anglia what else would it be.

j humphrys
j humphrys
20 days ago
Reply to  Sion Tomos

Is Andrew talking of earlier times, Raedwald being “new kid on the block”?

j humphrys
j humphrys
20 days ago
Reply to  Sion Tomos

Andrew thinks Readwald new kid on the block?

Vimpany-frank
Vimpany-frank
20 days ago

Elgin marbles no chance of getting anything off the covetous English?

Dim problem
Dim problem
19 days ago
Reply to  Vimpany-frank

Lord Elgin was a Scot, but don’t let facts get in their way of your prejudice.

Vimpany-frank
Vimpany-frank
20 days ago

In theory they should remain in the locality from where they were found . Human beings will always cause chaos ! Petit minded administrator’s who become hoarders for bodies they work for ,national institutions

vcragain
vcragain
6 days ago

Well I’m just a plain old English/Swiss/Irish human with a love of all things Welsh, and I totally agree with moving all these Welsh historical objects back to their homelands….where do I sign ?

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