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Treasure discovered from Bronze Age and Roman era in South Wales and Powys

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FIVE treasure finds, including three hoards and two grave groups from the Bronze Age and Roman era, were declared as treasure on Tuesday 11th July 2023 by Patricia Morgan, the Area Coroner for South Wales Central.

A burial group from the Bronze Age consisting of a small gold penannular ring and fragments of a burnt wooden comb (Treasure Case 17.13) was unearthed by Rubicon Heritage Services (Red River Archaeology Group) during archaeological excavations in the St Nicholas and Bonvilston Community on 28th July 2017. The discovery was made as part of the archaeological work preceding the A4426 Five Mile Lane improvements road scheme, funded by the Welsh Government and executed by Cyngor Bro Morgannwg – Vale of Glamorgan Council. The two artifacts were found accompanying a human cremation burial in a small burial pit. The burial and the artifacts were meticulously recorded before being removed. A license was obtained from the Ministry of Justice, allowing the removal of the ancient human remains.

The gold penannular ring, measuring just 1.1cm in diameter, is a beautifully crafted piece decorated with a finely worked chevron or herringbone pattern. It represents an early example of a hair-ring, believed to have been used for hair decoration. The fragmentary wooden comb, with eight narrow and parallel teeth, is in a fragile state. It is an incredibly rare organic artifact that survived due to its charred state. These two objects, dating back to the Middle Bronze Age (1300-1150 BC), were carefully chosen as grave goods to accompany the deceased in the afterlife.

Adam Gwilt, the Principal Curator for Prehistory at Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales, commented, “This cremation burial, with its accompanying gold ring and wooden comb, provides us with a glimpse into life and death during the Bronze Age. The gold ring is an early, well-crafted, and small example of its kind, offering new insights into the development of hair-rings as early forms of jewelry in Britain and Ireland. This grave is just one example of the wealth of prehistoric burial evidence being discovered across the Vale of Glamorgan, highlighting the richness, diversity, and significance of this archaeology and enhancing our understanding of the past.”

Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales is interested in acquiring this discovery after an independent valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee. The artifacts will become part of the broader collection and archive from this archaeological excavation, which is destined for the national collection.

David Gilbert, the Project Manager for Rubicon Heritage Services (Red River Archaeology Group), stated, “The gold ring is undoubtedly the most eye-catching object accompanying the cremation. However, the most important artifact is what may initially seem more mundane: the wooden comb. It is an unparalleled find in Wales, if not the UK. Together, these objects add a human element to our work, highlighting their significance to the person buried with them. They demonstrate the attention to detail and pride in appearance often missing from depictions of prehistoric people on television or in films. This discovery emphasizes the significant contribution made by commercial archaeology to advancing our detailed knowledge of the history of Wales.”

Another Roman burial was excavated by Rubicon Heritage Services (Red River Archaeology Group) in April 2017, as part of the archaeological work preceding the A4426 Five Mile Lane improvements road scheme, funded by the Welsh Government and executed by Cyngor Bro Morgannwg – Vale of Glamorgan Council. The burial included a silver crossbow brooch, the remains of an iron sword, and hobnails from a pair of shoes. This find underscores the valuable contribution of commercial archaeology in expanding our understanding of Wales’ history. The silver crossbow brooch, over 300 years old, falls under the remit of the Treasure Act (Treasure Case 17.06).

Crossbow brooches, a common type of Roman bow brooch, are predominantly made of copper alloy, although examples made of silver or gold exist. The sword discovered belongs to the longer type used by the Roman army in the third and fourth centuries AD, corresponding with the dating of the brooch.

Evan Chapman, the Senior Curator for Archaeology at Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales, stated, “To the best of my knowledge, this is the first example of a Roman silver crossbow brooch found in Wales. Crossbow brooches appear to be associated with the late Roman army and civil service, possibly originally serving as badges of office. However, it has been suggested that elements of military dress, including crossbow brooches, were embraced by the wider elite. The presence of the sword supports the military connection in this case. Regardless of direct affiliation with the Roman army, the silver brooch indicates an individual of elite status.”

Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales is interested in acquiring these objects following an independent valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee. The artifacts will remain together with the rest of the finds from the excavations, which are already destined for the national collection.

Rachel Morgan, the Project Archaeologist for Rubicon Heritage Services (Red River Archaeology Group), remarked, “The burial of a young man in military attire was an unexpected discovery within a Roman field system. The silver crossbow brooch found with the individual signifies his important status within the military or wider society. His death occurred sometime between the mid-3rd to late 4th century, during which the brooch had become a symbol of imperial administrators. Therefore, he was unlikely to have been an ordinary soldier and evidently possessed significant wealth. Isotope analysis also revealed that he was not from the local area but likely grew up further east, possibly from the Welsh borders or beyond. The question arises: what was this wealthy man doing on a farm in south Wales when he died?”

A Bronze Age hoard of tools and weapons (Treasure Case 20.22) was discovered by Richard Griffiths on 17th December 2020 while using a metal detector in a boggy field in the Coychurch Higher Community, Bridgend. The hoard consists of seven bronze artifacts, including four fragmented socketed axes, a spearhead, a palstave, and a casting jet. Dating back to the Late Bronze Age (1000-800 BC), the hoard was originally buried in a small and isolated pit, likely as a religious offering to the gods. Relatively few hoards from this period are known in the uplands of south Wales, making this find crucial in enriching our knowledge of the people who lived in the area around 3,000 years ago.

An investigation of the findspot was carried out in August 2022 by a team from Amgueddfa Cymru and the Portable Antiquities Scheme Wales (PAS Cymru), with assistance from the finder.

Richard Griffiths, the metal detectorist who discovered the hoard, expressed his excitement, saying, “I was thrilled to find this Bronze Age hoard, and it’s truly special to know that my find is now a part of our shared history. To think that I was the first person to hold these objects since the last person who used them, thousands of years ago, is a remarkable feeling. I enjoyed being involved with the museum archaeologists during their geophysics work and the small dig. It was fascinating to see how they carefully dug and recorded everything. The unexpected discovery of the buried spearhead added another interesting twist to the story!”

Chris Griffiths, a researcher at Amgueddfa Cymru, who led the investigation of the findspot, commented, “The opportunity to study the location of this hoard was invaluable, and we are extremely grateful for the cooperation of the landowner and Richard throughout this process. The discovery of a bronze spearhead during the investigation was the ‘icing on the cake,’ providing us with fascinating insights into how Bronze Age people interacted with this upland landscape.”

Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales is interested in acquiring this find after an independent valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee.

David Howell, the Engagement Officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru), stated, “For 25 years, the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales has been working to preserve knowledge and information about Welsh archaeology. During this time, PAS Cymru has recorded over 90,000 artifacts, establishing connections with the metal-detecting community and finders in general, to ensure that information about Welsh archaeology and history is recorded and shared with the nation.”

A Bronze Age hoard (Treasure Case 21.15) was discovered by Peter Anning while metal-detecting in a pasture field in the Pontprennau Community, Cardiff, on 30th October 2020. The hoard was initially reported to Mark Lodwick through the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru). It includes four fragments of a blade from a single leaf-shaped sword and two casting jets, which were generated during the casting of bronze artifacts in clay molds. The sword fragments belong to a type known as an Ewart Park sword, and one of the casting jets was created during the casting of a South Wales type socketed axe. These findings indicate that the hoard dates back to the Late Bronze Age, around 1000-800 BC. The artifacts were deliberately buried together in a small pit, most likely as a religious offering.

The Museum of Cardiff is interested in acquiring this hoard for its collection, pending an independent valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee. The sword would be the museum’s first of its kind and a valuable addition to their Bronze Age archaeology collection, which already includes a socketed axe. The casting jets will contribute to the narrative surrounding the production of such axes in Bronze Age Cardiff. By acquiring this hoard, the museum will be able to expand their storytelling of this era and their collection from the Pontprennau area of Cardiff.

Chris Griffiths, a doctoral student at the University of Reading and Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales, commented, “It is rare to find multiple joining pieces of swords from south Wales, making this hoard from Pontprennau Community, containing four blade fragments from a single sword, a significant new discovery. Prior to burial, the sword appears to have been deliberately broken into pieces, with some missing fragments possibly being recycled to create other objects. The way in which this sword was broken, combined with the presence of two casting jets, suggests the involvement of a local bronzesmith in creating this hoard, allowing us to imagine the lives of people who lived in this part of Cardiff around 3,000 years ago.”

A small hoard of Roman coins (Treasure Case 21.18) was found by Shawn Hendry and Chris Perkins in May 2021 while using metal detectors in a pasture field in the Glascwm Community, Powys. The coin group comprises six silver coins, known as denarii, ranging in date from 32 BC to AD 161. The coins feature representations of Mark Antony, as well as the emperors Titus, Hadrian, and Antoninus Pius. The latest coin in the group could have been minted as late as AD 161, indicating that the coins were likely lost together between AD 145 and 165. Most of the coins were in circulation for a long period before they were lost, and the earliest coin, belonging to Mark Antony (32-1 BC), is highly worn. The coins were probably lost as a small purse group or as a small hoard.

The Radnorshire Museum is interested in acquiring this hoard, following an independent valuation by the Treasure Valuation Committee.

Amgueddfa Cymru is a charity and a family of seven national museums and a collections center located across the country. The aim of the organization is to inspire everyone through Wales’ story, at the museums, in communities, and online. Admission is free, thanks to funding from the Welsh Government, and everyone is welcome.

To learn more about Amgueddfa Cymru’s seven museums, follow them on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook.

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Working together to protect our countryside and our country

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OPERATION Dawns Glaw, a multi-agency taskforce of specialist from key agencies across Wales has reformed to reduce, and where possible eliminate the impact of grass fires across Wales.

The task force, which was initially established in 2016 to tackle incidents of deliberately set grass fires across Wales, will also be turning its attention to the increase in accidental fires, often caused as a result of our own careless behaviour when out enjoying the countryside. 

In 2023 fire services across Wales attended 1,880 grassfire incidents – this was a decrease of 45% on the previous year with deliberate grass fires decreasing by 1,059 (45%) to 1,301. We want to continue in this direction.

Every year fire is responsible for the destruction of thousands of hectares of countryside, open space, and wildlife habitats.  We want to work with our communities to build a healthier and resilient countryside and to develop a more biodiverse countryside for the future. Working with our communities and sharing our knowledge provides us a better understanding on what we can do limit the damage that accidental fires cause to our environment.

Peter Greenslade, Corporate Head of Prevention and Protection for Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service, and Chair of Operation Dawns Glaw, said: “We launch our campaign again this year on St David’s Day, with a patriotic plea that we all continue to work together to build a healthier and more resilient Welsh landscape, by developing a more biodiverse countryside for our future. We want to continue to protect our landscapes, green grassland, and countryside that we are all so fortunate to have on our doorstep.

“We want to work with our communities, farmers, and landowners to share our knowledge and understanding of the effect that both deliberate and accidental fires have on our communities.  We understand that controlled burns can have a positive effect on the environment, creating biodiversity and a sustainable eco system and we are available for free advice on how do to this safely.

“I would also like to take the opportunity to reinforce our messages that while accidents can happen, there are some within our communities who are deliberately setting fire to our countryside – not only is this a crime, for which they will be prosecuted, but it also places unnecessary pressure on front line services and puts our communities in harm’s way. I would encourage anyone with information relating to such crimes to call 101, or to report anonymously to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111”. 

The Operation is also continuing its work with farmers and landowners across Wales, reminding them that while they may burn heather, grass, bracken and gorse up until the 15 March (up to 31 March in Upland areas), they must have a Burn Plan in place to ensure they are burning safely. It is against the law to burn outside of the burning season and can result in penalties of up to £1000.

Find out more about #DawnsGlaw 2024 via Mid and West Wales Fire and Rescue Service’s website www.mawwfire.gov.uk/DawnsGlaw, where you can also access some simple safety tips and download the campaign’s safety messages for use on your own social media channels. Together we held stop grass fires and protect our countryside and our country.

Remember – If are out enjoying the countryside and you do come across any suspicious activity, please call CrimeStoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or ring 101. In an emergency, always call 999.

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Lonely Planet says Heart of Wales line ‘one of best rail journeys in Europe’

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WORLD famous travel guide Lonely Planet has named the Heart of Wales railway line as one of the best rail journeys in Europe.

Described as ‘a spectrum of scenery’ that alternates ‘from the sand-edged estuaries of South Wales’ to ‘one of England’s prettiest medieval cities’, the line has been ranked amongst the top ten train rides in Europe for 2024.

Others on the prestigious list include the Le Petit Train Juane in the French Pyrenees, The Berina Express in Switzerland and The Brenner Railway passing through Germany, Austria and Italy.

Running between Swansea and Shrewsbury, a full trip on the line takes 4 hours and covers nearly 200km, passing through villages such as Llandeilo and Llandovery within the south and Craven Arms and Church Stretton further north.

Marie Daly, Chief Customer and Culture Officer at Transport for Wales said: “The Heart of Wales line is a beautiful rural railway that is popular with day trippers and walkers, it also provides vital links for the rural communities in Mid Wales and the Borders.

“It’s great to be recognised internationally by Lonely Planet and I’d encourage visitors to take a ride and enjoy the experience of dramatic mountains, forests, wild rivers and the quaint towns and villages of Shropshire, Powys, Carmarthenshire and Swansea.”    

“At TfW we’re on a journey to improve public transport and also to encourage people to choose sustainable travel.  For those visiting and interested, please visit www.walesonrails.co.uk to see the many wonderful places and attractions within Wales and how they can be accessed using public transport.”

Owen Griffkin, Heart of Wales Community Rail Partnership Officer said: “It was wonderful to see the Heart of Wales Line included as one of the top ten rail journeys in Europe. We are very proud of the railway and to see it gaining global recognition as one of the most scenic routes in Europe is something we can celebrate.

“Articles like this will drive more tourism to the area and provide economic benefits to communities all along the line, and we will be looking to capitalise on this in our next Community Rail Partnership activity plan.”

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Welsh neighbours band together to rescue Gaza families

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A GROUP of parents from North Pembrokeshire, have taken it upon themselves to provide aid to families in Gaza, offering a beacon of hope amidst the ongoing crisis.

The community initiative, known as “Cwtch Pals,” aims to secure safe havens for families, particularly those with young children who have been caught in the relentless conflict that has stripped them of their homes, food security, and safety.

The grassroots effort is driven by a deep empathy towards the children in Gaza, with one parent reflecting, “We see our children’s faces in theirs.” The group’s motivation is rooted in a historical consciousness, drawing parallels to the Kindertransport efforts during the Holocaust, where Jewish children were saved by individuals in a similar act of humanitarianism. “It’s the least we can do,” said a mother, whose father was a Holocaust survivor, emphasising the significance of passing on the legacy of kindness and rescue.

The connection between the Welsh group and the families in Gaza is deeply personal, with relationships built over years through platforms like Amnesty International and direct educational engagement. Lara, a member of the initiative, shared her touching story of teaching one of the now-adult children in Gaza, who has since become a wounded reporter. The group is currently focusing on raising £7,000 to complete the evacuation of this family, among others, to safety.

Families that have already received assistance are finding temporary refuge in Egypt, with some members still unable to leave Gaza due to their indispensable roles in the community, such as a doctor who remains to attend to the urgent medical needs despite his family’s worries for his safety.

Cwtch Pals has its origins in Croeso Teifi, a charity response to the Syrian crisis, and benefits from the Community Sponsorship scheme in the UK, a testament to the effective integration of refugees through community-managed schemes. This initiative not only supports the immediate needs of the displaced but also ensures their long-term integration by providing access to education and employment opportunities in Wales.

Despite the dire situation and the UK government’s hesitance to open its arms to Palestinians, the group remains steadfast in its commitment to fill this gap through local action. The initiative is a poignant reminder of the universal values of democracy and humanity, as echoed by a grateful mother in Gaza, who, despite her circumstances, recognises and appreciates the efforts of the Welsh parents. Her words underscore the impact of the initiative, promising to share their stories of kindness and determination with future generations.

The group’s actions are a powerful example of how community solidarity can transcend borders, offering a glimmer of hope and a path to recovery for those in dire need.

For those looking to support or join the effort, Cwtch Pals can be contacted through Facebook or their dedicated email, emphasising the collective power of small communities to make a significant difference in the lives of others across the globe.

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