Mold Gold Cape

Mold Gold Cape is the finest piece of prehistoric gold-working in Europe

(Read the article on one page)

The Mold Cape is a 3,700-year-old solid gold artefact found in the 19 th century within a Bronze Age burial mound at Mold, in Flintshire, Wales. It was finely crafted out of a single sheet of gold, then embellished with exceptional decoration designed to mimic multiple strings of beads amid folds of cloth.  The cape is regarded as one of the finest examples of prehistoric sheet-gold working in Europe and perhaps the world. Its unique form and design demonstrates highly advanced craftsmanship in Bronze Age Europe.

The Bronze Age burial mound was found in a field named Bryn yr Ellyllon (‘Fairies’ Hill’) by workmen in 1833. It had been placed on the body of a person who was interred inside a cist (stone-lined grave) within a burial mound. Inside the mound, archaeologists also found the remains of woven textile, 16 fragments of sheet bronze, a bronze knife, fragments of a second gold cape, two gold ‘straps’, an urn with large quantities of burnt bone and ash, and the remains of hundreds of amber beads, which would have originally been on the cape.

Archaeologists and scholars were stunned. At the time and place this gold cape was made, people in Britain lived in temporary settlements and fluid communities, and they moved with their livestock and possessions through the landscape. They did not build cities or palaces, yet they were capable of creating incredibly sophisticated objects like the Mold Gold Cape.

Crafting the cape

The golden cape is oval in shape and was designed to cover the shoulders, upper arms, and upper chest of a person of slight built. It was beaten out of a single ingot of gold, a task which would have taken considerable time and skill. It was then decorated with concentric rings of ribs and bosses.

Sheets of bronze found within the cist are believed to have been the backing for the gold, as in places the gold was riveted with bronze rivets. Perforations along the upper and lower edges suggest it may once have had a lining attached, perhaps leather, which has since decayed.

Mold Gold Cape Detail

Detail of the Mold Cape in the British Museum, showing tool marks. Photo source: Wikipedia

Who wore the cape?

The skeleton was lost soon after it was found, so the gender cannot be confirmed, but based on the size of the cape, it is believed it was made to fit a petite woman or a child. Until the cape had been reconstructed from the pieces in which it was found, it was always assumed the cape was worn by a male.

“When a spectacular object is found buried with an individual, the usual assumption made is that the person must have been a male adult – perhaps a warrior, a chief or religious leader. This is what people first thought when they found the fragments of the Mold Gold Cape…But it’s a good reminder that archaeologists always interpret the past with the prejudices of the present,” said Ben Roberts, Curator at the British Museum.

The individual who once wore the cape would have possessed great power and wealth, and it is believed this wealth may have been generated by the nearby Great Orme – the largest copper mine in north-west Europe. This would have been a major trading centre for prehistoric communities.

The cape is so unique – there is really nothing to compare it to in the whole of Europe – that scholars have been hard pressed to explain why it was made and what significance it had.  However, when worn, it would have severely restricted upper arm movement, which suggests that the cape was only used for special occasions. This led to the simple conclusion that the cape was ceremonial, perhaps with religious connections, but the reality is that we will never know who wore this cape and why.

Featured image: Mold Cape. Photo source: Wikipedia

By April Holloway

References

The Mold Cape – British Museum

Mold Gold Cape – BBC History of the World

The Mold Gold Cape – Museum Wales

The Mold Gold cape – British Museum

Mold Gold Cape on display at Wrexham Museum - BBC

 

Comments

Jesus wore this before he was murdered by St. Paul in Britain.

how much does it weight?

Justbod's picture

What a stunningly beautiful piece of craftsmanship!
It always seems to be the way with human nature that if something doesn't fit our preconceived ideas we become awkward about it and tend to sideline it and give it less attention.
I hope that more future discoveries relating to the bronze age will help us create new contexts and paradigms into which finds of this quality make sense.

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature: www.justbod.co.uk

 

 

 

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Top New Stories

Virtual recreation by Charles Chipiez. A panoramic view of the gardens and outside of the Palace of Darius I of Persia in Persepolis.
Once the stunning capital of the Persian Empire (also known as the Achaemenid Empire), Persepolis was lost to the world for almost nineteen hundred years, buried in the dirt of southwestern Iran until the 17th century. Founded in 518 BC by Darius I of the Persian Empire, Persepolis (called Parsa by the native Persians) lasted only a mere two hundred years despite the grandeur Darius and his followers abundantly heaped on its construction. Notwithstanding Persepolis’ tragic end, what remains of the Persian citadel is astounding.

Myths & Legends

The Smelliest Women of Ancient Greece: Jason and the Argonauts Get Fragrant
We all know Aphrodite, Greek goddess of love and beauty, made sure that she was worshipped by punishing those who ignored her altars. One brief appearance of this wrath in the tale of Jason and the Argonauts turned into a particularly fragrant episode.

Ancient Places

Inside one of the tunnels under Valetta, Malta.
Hordes of tourists visit the Mediterranean island of Malta each year to enjoy the above ground attractions the country has to offer such as breath-taking sandy beaches, historical buildings, and traditional cuisine. Yet, there is also a subterranean world hidden beneath the island’s surface. These are the rumored secret tunnels of Malta.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article