Bronze Age treasure linked to Great Orme copper mines found in Conwy

A RARE find dating to the Bronze Age likely linked to copper mines at the Great Orme has been declared treasure.

The bronze items were declared treasure on Wednesday, June 1, by Ms Katie Sutherland, Assistant Coroner for North Wales (East & Central) at Ruthin.

The two mould pieces were found by George Borrill while metal-detecting on rough pastureland in Conwy on August 12, 2017.

He reported his find to Dr Susie White, Finds Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru) and the find was subsequently reported as treasure by curatorial staff based at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.

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The moulds were used to cast palstaves (a kind of axe) with single midrib decoration and with a side-loop.

These have been identified as dating to the Middle Bronze Age, around 1400-1275 BCE or 3,400 years ago.

The two mould valves once formed a matching pair, the two locking together – one a positive valve with projecting tenons and the other the negative valve with matching recesses.

The outer surfaces have raised rib and moulding decoration, each of a slightly differing design.

Adam Gwilt, Principal Curator for Prehistory at Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, said: “This is a significant new archaeological find for Wales. Moulds such as these are quite rare across Britain. They offer us great insights into the bronze casting traditions operating in north Wales during the Middle Bronze Age. The growing evidence for moulds and palstave hoard finds in this area suggests that a range of bronze palstaves with midrib decorations were made here and were then exchanged and transported over long distances at this time, to their place of use.”

“It is likely that the nearby Great Orme Bronze Age copper mines, some of the most important prehistoric mines in Europe and in their heyday during the Middle Bronze Age, provided the local source of copper for bronzesmiths. Tin from Cornwall was accessed, to mix with the molten copper to form these bronze artefacts. This matching pair of moulds appears to have been deliberately buried, rather than being recycled at the end of their lives, perhaps during a symbolic act of returning these powerful objects to their place of origin.”

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales hopes to acquire this treasure find, following its independent valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee.

North Wales Pioneer | Llandudno