In March 2019, a metal detectorist was searching for artifacts in a field in Wales, and stumbled upon a hoard of exceptionally preserved objects dating back 2,000 years to the Roman era and Iron Age! Now officially declared treasure, these finds include a Roman pot and a Celtic bucket mount, which initially emerged as a bloc collection of buried treasures.
In total, eight objects, including two complete pieces, were unearthed from the field located in the scenic region of Llantrisant Fawr, Monmouthshire. Other Roman pottery were vessels also part of the booty, stumbled upon by detectorist Jon Mathews. Although he wasn’t initially certain about the significance of his discovery, he had a strong intuition that it might be something of great importance, reports Wales Online .
The bucket mounts found at Llantrisant Fawr. ( Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales )
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Acting upon this hunch, he promptly contacted the local find liaison officer, who recognized the potential value of the artifacts. With careful precision, the archaeologists delicately excavated the findings which were then transported to Amgueddfa Cymru, the National Museum of Wales, for further examination and preservation.
Following these initial findings, Jon Matthews joined the museum’s excavation team at the site. Together, more artifacts were unearthed, including a captivating bowl adorned with an ox’s face! Initially mistaken for a brooch, this particular discovery left Jon, an experienced detectorist of ten years, in awe, describing the experience as “surreal.”
“I’ve never seen anything like it. I didn’t think our ancestors could make such a beautiful, beautiful thing. I was quite shocked. I feel honoured to have found something so unique that is linked to Wales and our ancestors,” exclaimed Mr Matthews.
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The subsequent investigations conducted by experts from the Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales (PAS Cymru) and Amgueddfa Cymru uncovered a total of two complete and six fragmentary vessels. Among the findings were remnants of two wooden tankards, an Iron Age bucket adorned with copper alloy fittings, an Iron Age copper alloy bowl, cauldron, and strainer, as well as two Roman copper alloy saucepans.
These vessels are believed to have been buried as a group during the second half of the first century AD, a tumultuous historical period surrounding the end of the Roman occupation of Britain .
The remarkable bowl with an ox head handle is a beautiful blue-green metal design and a wide-eyed ox with bowed horns. The lower lips or jaw extend outwards into the handle-like loop. The team has given this find the nickname of ‘Bovril’!
Now that it’s been declared treasure, I’m excited to finally share this incredible hoard that I was so lucky to help excavate. The c.1st century AD Llantrisant Fawr vessel hoard found near Usk, Monmouthshire
— Dr! Adelle Bricking (@archae_delle) May 5, 2023
Alastair Willis, a senior curator at Amgueddfa Cymru, said, “The discovery of two coin hoards in the same field and in the general vicinity of the Roman town at Caerwent, is exciting and significant. The results of the geophysical survey undertaken suggest the presence of a previously unknown settlement or religious site where the coin hoards were buried. This sheds light on life in the rural hinterland around the Roman town of Venta Silurum. The discoveries are also important for understanding events happening in south-east Wales around the time when the Romans left, at the beginning of the fifth century AD.”
A Roman trulleus (saucepan) handle found at Llantrisant Fawr. ( Amgueddfa Cymru – Museum Wales )
Interestingly, other significant discoveries were made in a ploughed field in Caerwent by metal detectorists Colin Price and Rhys Cadwallader between 2014 and 2022. Their findings consisted of a hoard of Roman coins dating from the late-third to late-fourth centuries AD. The proximity of these coin hoards to the Roman town of Caerwent has led experts to believe that they might indicate the presence of an unknown settlement or religious site.
Dr David Howell, PAS Cymru Engagement Officer added, “The Portable Antiquities Scheme in Wales plays a critical role in safeguarding Welsh heritage. Through a network of dedicated Finds Liaison Officers across Wales, and support from the Welsh Archaeological Trusts, PAS Cymru provides a service where finders of archaeological materials can formally report their objects.”
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He also highlighted how years of invaluable information have enhanced our understanding of Welsh archaeology and history, in which PAS Cymru has played an invaluable role.
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