The Mold gold cape
Mold, Flintshire, North Wales, Bronze Age, about 1900-1600 BC
Workmen quarrying for stone in an ancient burial mound in 1833 found this unique ceremonial gold cape, which remains unparalleled to this day. The mound lay in a field named Bryn yr Ellyllon (the Fairies’ or Goblins’ Hill).
At the centre of the mound was a stone-lined grave with the crushed gold cape around the fragmentary remains of a skeleton. Strips of bronze and numbers of amber beads were recovered, but only one of the beads reached the British Museum.
The cape would have been unsuitable for everyday wear because it would have severely restricted upper arm movement. Instead it would have served ceremonial roles, and may have denoted religious authority.
The cape is one of the finest examples of prehistoric sheet-gold working and is quite unique in form and design. It was laboriously beaten out of a single ingot of gold, then embellished with intense decoration of ribs and bosses to mimic multiple strings of beads amid folds of cloth.
Perforations along the upper and lower edges indicate that it was once attached to a lining, perhaps of leather, which has decayed. The bronze strips may have served to strengthen the adornment further.
It’s also too small for an adult man, or most adult women, so if it was worn, it was very possibly by a child.