Treasure! The Tal-y-Llyn Hoard

By: brianrichardmatthews

Feb 28 2012

Category: Uncategorized

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In June 1963 remarkable Bronze shield decorations were found on the southern slopes of Cadair Idris.  The location was about 800 feet above the valley floor to one side of the well known walker’s route, the Minfordd Path. The thin sheets of broken metal were packed together as if originally in a bundle and were half- buried in soil beneath a projecting boulder. The sacred treasure was hidden for two thousand years, as it probably dates from around the 1st Century B.C., eventually being revealed by the inexorable forces of wind and rain.  Who designed it’s mystic shapes?  Who left it there?  I see a scene, where life is hard and the land is in danger from invaders from the East beyond Lloegres (now England).  The King and his Druidic Advisors appeal to the gods for aid.  They go, as they have done many times before, to the Sacred Lake to give offerings that they might be delivered from danger.  On the way they are startled by approaching Warriors giving battle!  They beat a hasty retreat and bury their treasure until they return at a safer time.  Soon the danger will have passed, and the precious hoard can be exhumed and taken to the lake and thus delivered to the gods in the Underworld.  Sadly there is to be no return as they are waylaid, slaughtered and scattered by the invaders.

In truth there is no story left to tell us who left the treasure on the mountain and why.  Just clues for Archaeologists and inspiration for Poets.  It’s artwork is of the La Tene Culture and has parallels with similar objects found at Moel Hiraddug in Flintshire and with ancient artifacts from Greece.  Some pieces make up the central shied boss with three legged Triskele motifs. Other pieces, including the one illustrated in the Lakeside Bar at the Pen-y-Bont Hotel, are unusual in having on them small human heads in an apparently symmetrical design.  A second look reveals a cleverly worked theme of interlocking male and female images that suggest a symbol of fertility.  The ancient belief that “The King and the Land are One” meant such symbols were used to bring divine aid for fertile pastures and successful crops.  Also, as these shield decorations were designed for ceremony rather than war, this brings to our imagination the Hoard of a King.

The Ancient Celts looked for divinity more so in the Underworld than in the sky as we often think of Heaven nowadays.  Offerings could be buried or cast into the waters of some deep, dark lake.  This has come to us in the form of the King Arthur legend and the sword Excalibur.  Arthur cast it into the lake and it was returned by the mysterious Lady of the Lake.  Llyn Cau is only a mile further up the Minffordd Path and is a perfect example of such a Votive site.

Consider what we know of the Ancient Egyptians and the treasures buried deep within their pyramids.  These possessions would accompany the Pharoah into the next world.  In this light it is easy to visualise proud Celtic Warriors, casting their most sacred possessions into the waters and beyond this world into the Afterlife. Perhaps this was the intended destination for the Tal-y-Llyn Hoard?

Now it resides within the Museum of Wales in Cardiff, a fine example of Celtic metalwork, produced by a culture that spread from across the then known world from further east than Turkey all the way west to Ireland .  A culture whose beautiful creations we still admire today and whose language is still spoken in a form known as Cymraeg, the modern Welsh Language.


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