Banc Ty'nddôl sun-disc
Decorated with concentric line and dot circles and pierced by two central holes, apparently for attachment. The design was determined to belong to the Primary Bell Beaker Goldwork Tradition.
|Material||Welsh alluvial gold|
|Created||Beaker phase (c. 2000 BC)|
|Discovered||16 October 2002 near Cwmystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales|
|Present location||Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, Cardiff, Wales|
The Banc Ty'nddôl sun-disc is a small, decorated, gold ornament discovered at Cwmystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales. It most likely was part of a funerary garment and is more than 4,000 years old, which makes it the earliest gold artifact found in Wales. It was discovered on October 16, 2002 by a team of archaeologists who were investigating the site of Roman and Medieval lead smelting hearths below the Bronze Age copper mine on Copa Hill.
Excavation now has shown that these mining sites date to the Roman (first century AD) and Early Medieval (ninth to twelfth century AD) periods, but one of the most important finds of the excavation was the gold disc about the size of a milk-bottle top, which pre-dated these discoveries by more than 2,000 years.
At the time of its discovery, it seemed uncertain as to whether the gold object had ever been intentionally deposited; no earlier archaeological features were at that time identified, whilst its shallow find-spot suggested that it had been disturbed and re-deposited some distance downslope from its original burial context. However, the object was at that time identified and reported to HM Coroner for Ceredigion as a Treasure find on 30 October 2002, whilst further study of the find continued, and a follow-up investigation of the find spot was planned. Given concerns over the possibility of further artefacts remaining within the ground by virtue of association with the disc, also potential treasure, re-excavation of the site took place in March 2003, with funding from the National Museums and Galleries of Wales.
Samples of soil containing degraded bone fragments were collected for dating along with charcoal from in and around the grave. Insufficient collagen survived to provide any sort of reliable date from the bone, whilst the three samples of charcoal recovered from the grave fill proved to be intrusive; one suggesting Mesolithic activity associated with the pre-burial land surface (OxA-12983: 8850 ± 40 [8210–7760 CalBC]), another a Late Roman date for the ground surface covering the edge of the grave (OxA-12955: 1675 ± 28 [320–430 Cal AD]), whilst the third consisted of a single piece of oak charcoal derived from the Early Medieval smelting horizon above (OxA-12956: 1264 ± 27 [670–840 Cal AD]). Whilst not providing us with any clear answer, these results do at least support the possibility of a prehistoric burial.
The disc is 38.9mm in diameter, with a weight of 2.51g, made of a very pure gold that is composed of between 93% and 94% gold, 6% and 7% silver and a negligible amount of copper. It is decorated with concentric line and dot circles and pierced by two central holes, apparently for attachment. The design was determined to belong to the Primary Bell Beaker Goldwork Tradition. Even though the exact source for the metal cannot be established, the composition appears consistent with that for Irish, Scottish, and Welsh alluvial gold. The disc most likely was made for a funerary garment and possibly, to symbolize the life-giving power of the sun. Further investigation of the discovery site revealed skeletal remains that once were covered over by a mound of stones, known as a cairn. The grave was located within a crescent of boulders and was oriented to look down the valley to the west—a poignant resting place for the person wearing one of Wales's first metal discs derived from native gold.
Similar artifacts have been found in Ireland, The Isle of Man, and Brittany. Most known examples of this class of 'sun-disc' have been found in Ireland (21), with smaller numbers from Scotland (6), England (5), and similar examples from France. This is the first example to be found in Wales and thought to be the earliest gold artifact from Wales, probably belonging to the slightly later established Beaker phase (c. 2000 BC). The Banc Ty'nddôl disc most closely resembles an example from Ireland that remains without provenance, having two-four linear circles in repoussé and two central perforations. A similar style with repoussé dots is to be found in an example from Kirk Andreas in The Isle of Man.
In Brittany, gold discs with similar dot and linear decoration have been discovered in Neolithic tombs and they also appear to be associated with early Beaker (Chalcolithic) abandonment deposits. In Britain, three examples have been found associated with two Beaker burials (one as a pair, and one as a single find) at Mere and Farleigh Wick in Wiltshire.
The similarities in style and decorative technique between the Banc Ty'nddôl disc and 'basket earrings' or gold hair tress ornaments associated with rich Beaker burials is striking. Examples from Kirkhaugh, Northumberland had been tooled similarly on the surface as a means of enhancing the repoussé lines applied to the back, a detail precisely matched on the Banc Ty'nddôl disc. The Kirkhaugh basket earring and other items from similar burial sites can all be dated to the period between 2500–1900 BC.
The disc was declared a treasure in December 2003 and has since been acquired by the Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales.
Cwmystwyth mines, located near the excavation site.
- Simon Timberlake: Excavations Director, Early Mines Research Group, Cambridge CB5 8ST, UK.
- Adam Gwilt: Later Prehistorian, Department of Archaeology, National Museum & Gallery of Wales, CF10 3NP, UK.
- Mary Davis: Archaeological Conservator, National Museum & Gallery of Wales, Cardiff CF10 3NP, UK.
- Simon Timberlake. "The Banc Ty'nddôl sun-disc — one of Wales's earliest gold objects". Celtic Design Studio. Archived from the original on March 10, 2006. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- Morgan, Gerald (2005). Ceredigion, A Wealth of History. Ceredigion, Wales: Gomer. ISBN 1-84323-348-7.
- Timberlake, S. 2002 a Medieval lead smelting boles near Penguelan, Cwmystwyth, Archaeology in Wales 42: 45–59
- —2002 b Cwmystwyth, Banc Ty'nddôl: gold disc, AW 42, 97–98 Timberlake, S. 2003 Excavations on Copa Hill, Cwmystwyth (1986–1999); An Early Bronze Age copper mine within the uplands of Central Wales. BAR British Series 348 Oxford: Archaeopress.
- "A Copper Age/ Early Bronze Age gold disc from Banc Ty'nddôl (Penguelan, Cwmystwyth Mines, Ceredigion)". Antiquity Vol 78 No 302 December 2004. Archived from the original on 20 May 2006. Retrieved 2008-11-07.
- Banc Ty'nddôl, Cwmystwyth' in Archaeology in Wales* 44 *(2004) pp. 137–139