The largest prehistoric mine in the world

By now you’ve probably realised that Wales has three things aplenty: sheep, castles and mines.
Wales was famous for it’s coal mining throughout the 19th and early 20th century and had substantial slate mines but there had been small-scale mining in the country since the British Iron Age. Gold, copper and lead were mined in substantial quantities, zinc and silver not quite as much, until it wasn’t profitable any more.

I finally got to visit the Great Orme Copper Mines properly this year (with my parents in tow). Located half way up the Great Orme in Llandudno, it is the largest Bronze Age mine in the world and was uncovered in 1987 during a scheme to landscape an area of the Great Orme. Since then it has been an ongoing archaeological project of slowly uncovering bit by bit.

On the surface you can tour parts of the opencast mine which is over 4,000 years old and take a look down a deep Victorian mine shaft.


Walking through the 3,500 year old tunnels you get a feel for the harsh conditions copper mining involved in those days and it always dazzles me what the people of that age were able to accomplish using only stone hammers and bone.

The tunnels take you down to the second level which is approximately 60ft below the surface and it gets really cold and damp down there. If you feel claustrophobic easily this might not be the right place fore you. Only 3% of the tunnels are open to the public at the moment so some follow up visits might be required in the future.

And if you feel like you need some open air afterwards just make your way up to the top of the Great Orme with its stunning view.

All that glitters IS gold – The Mold Cape

A very special cape is getting Wrexham excited at the moment. The Mold Cape, a solid sheet-gold object dating from about 1900-1600 BC in the European Bronze Age, is currently on display in the Wrexham Museum. It was found by workmen in a Bronze Age burial mound at Mold in Flintshire, Wales, in 1833 and that’s where its name derives from.

Mold-Cape_Front

Front view of the cape. It covered the upper body pinning the arms to its wearer’s sides. Photograph by Geni

And you certainly wouldn’t feel underdressed wearing this cape. It is one of the most spectacular examples of prehistoric sheet-gold working and the skills and craftsmanship gone into it are exceptional. The details are amazing and you have to remember that it is almost 4000 years old!!

Mold-Cape_Detail

Close up showing some of the intricate decoration. Photograph by

It was supposedly made for a woman (no surprise here) and used for ceremonial purposes, as the wearer’s arm movements were restricted to the lower arms because of the design. It may have signified the wearer as a person of spiritual or temporal power.

I remember seeing it in the British Museum a couple of years back but failed to take a picture then. So hopefully I will get a chance during its stay in Wrexham to find out a bit more about it and maybe take some pictures too (I’m not sure it is allowed). The Mold Cape is on display in the Wrexham Museum from today 8th August until 14th September 2013 and Wrexham Heritage Services are offering a programme of events. You can find more information here.