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View of South Elevation, showing Temple, and base of intense strength, with the two bonding damp courses of schist, protected by a breakwater of boulders and steps of ascent from low water mark upwards.
British Archaeological Association.
ON SOME EARLY SETTLERS NEAR CONWAY.
THEIR BEAUTIFUL JEWELLERY AND GOLD WORK.
BY J. S. PHENÉ, ESQ., LL.D., F.S.A., F.R.G.S., F.R.I.B.A.
(Read at the Conway Congress, 24th August 1897.)
information conveyed to us by history in
their rareness. And although intervals of time and distance are numerous and often far-extending, the variety of branches that scientific research has recently opened ramify into the far regions of past times, and the far regions of geographical areas, by which many a hiatus is removed and many a difficulty over
Amongst others, examples of gold-bearing districts of the past will be found to occupy a more interesting position than even the far-famed historical sources of British tin ; less on account of the mere value of the material, although that is powerful, than as an indication of art centres; and with art, the civilisation of which art is
sometimes the outcome, sometimes the introducer, according as it is more or less the result of native invention produced by the presence of a beautiful and tractable material ; or, on the other hand, of the presence of skilled artists attracted to localities by the existence of such a material, either in its original native or its imported abundance.
Amongst the connecting features are those arising from traffic in other articles than gold, in which, in days of pure and simple exchange by barter, gold became the article of exchange; though this would more correctly come under the description of local commercial accumulation.
But from whatever cause gold in ancient or modern times accumulated, there, in those places centralised to a greater or less extent that which has always surrounded gold depôts, viz., allied arts, civilisation, luxury, and often refinement.
As an example. The great traffic in amber along the valley of the Elbe, which conveyed this article of simple beauty from the shores of the Baltic to the mouth of the Danube, and thence to Asia, would not only bring exchange commodities back on the return, but by so doing would open a source of travel which, once established, would continue and increase till some easier or more favourable route came into use : resulting, it may be, from the introduction of new articles of commerce, as in the case of tin, which would affect the course of such route by the position of the market or markets which would become entrepôts for such new articles of commerce, and the new sources of facility of travel to them.
As gold, long treasured before tin and iron became known, would have been probably the primitive article of commerce, so the gold districts would have been the early centres of advance, though inferior, of course, to the greater centres of its earlier abundance.
In the British Islands, and those of the North Sea, highly artistic articles of very ancient work in gold have been found, and are now treasured in the museums of Scandinavia and the numerous museums of these islands.
Science steps in to aid the subject, and by analysis
shows clearly that the locality whence this gold was obtained was Ireland.
Ireland, being the more remote of the British islands from the Baltic traffic and the great European river valley traffic, would, primâ facie, in itself have attracted later attention ; but the universal desire for gold would, on its being known to exist there, have raised it in the estimation of the merchants of the precious metals in a sense far exceeding the obstacle arising from its distance. Yet the latter difficulty would for a long period prevent its colonisation by foreign workers in gold and other precious metals; though such craftsmen would settle as near to it as possible. I have little doubt that the charge of cannibalism against the Irish was to deter merchants, other than those to whom its gold was known, from visiting that island, just as the Congress of Merchants tried by deception to deter Caesar's visit to Britain.
In my Papers, read to the Congress of the British Archaeological Association at Manchester, in 1894, and again at Winchester and Stoke-upon-Trent, as well as in several Papers read before the British Association for the Advancement of Science, I have repeatedly drawn attention to the smelting-houses, crucibles, and other features indicating the presence of skilled metallurgists and assayists, from Holyhead to Kent; and perhaps on a grander scale along the west coast of Great Britain, from high up in Scotland on the east as well as the west coasts, to one solitary example south of the English Channel in Brittany, in the formation of-or more probably the use of—the Vitrified “Forts”, the early examination of which occupied me nearly half a century ago, as described in my paper in the British Archaeological Journal in June 1894.
These vitrified objects are chiefly on the west coast and in the north, along which coast the marine metal traffic would have been most fully developed. From the large amount of slag described by me in the Journal as found in these so-called “ Forts"-slag which was closely similar to that at Hissarlik on the Trojan plains-the evidences in favour of their use for smelting the less valuable metals in them become powerful. The mere fact of one such object existing near the mouth of the Severn and one almost opposite to that on the coast of Brittany, is strongly indicative of tin and copper from Devonshire and Cornwall being smelted there.
Along these lines of vitrified structures are also found unique erections called in Scotland “Brocks”. They are closely similar to the Nuraghi of Sardinia, which modern searchers consider, with reasonable evidences, were storehouses for metal, corn, and commercial objects, as places of security from piratical attacks. There are accounts of, and my surveys show, still existing structures similar to the Brocks and the Nuraghi in Cornwall, though little known.
But to return to Ireland as a land of gold and the precious metals. There are traditions of so remarkable a kind, that, whether mythical or not, they at least attest a belief in skilled metallic art of so high a class in that country, that there must have been high metallic skill there for the very traditions to have taken root in the popular mind : as that of the silver hand worn by a maimed warrior, every joint of the fingers of which acted as completely as the natural hand.
The abundance of gold was such that the monoliths of worship were surmounted or crowned with gold, so that analysis, tradition, history, and the precious gold artistic work in the museum of the Royal Irish Academy, all indicate that pure and fine gold was one of the great products of Ireland. Indeed, so late as the last century (1796) the gold washings in the county of Wicklow produced £10,000.
This being so, it is less surprising to find high-class smelting-houses, crucibles, and apparatus on the route from Ireland through Britain, than the so-called “Forts", which if so used would have been for metals of larger bulk and grosser combinations than the more refined and precious metals. It is in this neighbourhood that such relics have been discovered, in Holyhead and its vicinity.
It is hardly necessary to point out what is so well known from recent experience in the British-Colonial gold fields, that production of gold from washing follows previous acquisition from masses or nuggets of gold; and