One Rainy Day
One seemingly normal and rainy day, Mike was out with his trusty metal detector. As a metal detecting hobbyist, he was hoping to find buried treasure. Suddenly, he was jolted out of his daydream by a loud beep from the machine.
Adrenaline began to pump through his veins as he swung the machine left and right over the wet soil. Little did he know, the authorities would soon be involved.
It’s everybody’s dream of finding buried treasure, and the fascination of finding something after putting time and effort into seeking it out is a fantasy that most of us have had since childhood.
That’s why we loved to play ‘hide and seek’, and the thrill of an Easter egg hunt was something special when we were children. But for Mike, that special feeling he got when he was close to finding something hidden never really went away.
Mike was a curious man by nature, and when he struck upon something with his metal detector on this particular wet and windy day, he never expected to dig up something so monumental.
And he certainly never expected to get into so much trouble for his find. But now that the metal detector had indicated that there was something under his feet, there was no undoing it.
There Was Something There
Mike had been sweeping the field when he suddenly heard that thrilling beep. Trying to contain his excitement, he walked a few feet so that he could gauge exactly where the item his machine had found lay.
But then, the strangest thing happened. Instead of the beeping growing fainter as he walked away, it grew louder. Mike thought his machine was malfunctioning, at first.
When his metal detector began to beep loudly, he knew that he was right to trust his instincts.
Following the beeping from his metal detector, he slowly uncovered the moist soil with his shovel until he had made a hole about a foot wide and two feet deep, unaware that his dreams — and his nightmares — were about to come true.
Imagining The Possibilities
Mike knew that he had no choice now. He had to start digging to find out what lay in the ground. His mind raced with the possibilities of what he was about to unearth and his hands began to shake.
The undeniable feeling that something huge was about to happen hung over him as he worked at the soft mud and soil.
He’d found a few old pennies near this spot before, but they hadn’t been worth much. The object Mike had found was no rock or animal tooth, and it wasn’t a coin either. It was small and perfectly round. With shaking fingers, he lifted it out from the dirt to inspect it.
At first, he thought it might be an old coin, but when he rubbed at it with his thumb an inscription began to appear.
Mike turned the object over and noticed that there was a figure engraved on one side and a message on the other. At the top was a ring that looked like it had been attached to a chain or clip.
But he couldn’t dwell on the inscriptions now… he’d just spotted another object sticking out of the mud. What he didn’t know was that he’d only found the first piece of the puzzle.
Mike abandoned his trowel and began to dig around the object with his hands. When he had finally cleared the soil from underneath it, he grasped the piece of metal with both hands to try to pull it out.
But whatever he had found wouldn’t budge. He gathered his strength for another pull, sitting back on his feet for leverage. What had Mike found here?
He Couldn’t Move It
This rusty old piece of metal didn’t move an inch, no matter how hard Mike pulled on it. But even more puzzling still was the fact that the piece he could see didn’t look particularly heavy.
He decided to change his tack. He got down on his knees again and tried to shift the soil around the mysterious object. He jiggled it this way and that, trying to loosen the soil, but the earth wasn’t about to give its treasure up so easily.
He’d Come Too Far To Give Up
As Mike began to clear the soil from underneath and around the mysterious object, he began to see indications that it was actually connected to something else.
With his interest and curiosity piqued even further, he began to speculate about what lay underneath. What could it be? And how could it possibly be so heavy?
A Mystery Unfolding
He kept digging with his hands around the area and eventually began to uncover a second object, and then a third.
That’s when he realized that these mysteriously rounded metal pieces were links. A chill ran down his spine as he stared, incredulous. He simply could not believe what he’d uncovered.
Links Of A Chain
Mike began to realize that he’d stumbled upon something strange indeed. He had uncovered the round pieces of metal only to discover that they were links that formed a larger whole.
He uncovered more and more links, they just seemed to go on forever! Finally, he came to the end of the iron chain. But just what were these links attached to?
While Mike had been trying to uncover the colossal mystery he’d found, he hadn’t even noticed that the afternoon was becoming night. As the light faded, he cursed.
He hadn’t anticipated being out on the field for so long, so he’d forgotten to bring a flashlight. Whatever lay in the ground would have to wait until morning.
As he lay in bed thinking about the day’s events, he knew it would be impossible to fall asleep. His mind was filled with speculation as to what was on the other end of the rusty chain that led deep into the earth.
He had only told his closest friends about his find, but he was worried that someone else would stumble on it before he could get a closer look. His mind began to wander, bringing some unwelcome thoughts with it.
Was It Dangerous?
As Mike lay in bed, a sinking feeling began to overwhelm him. What if he had uncovered something terrible? And was there a reason that it had been buried there in the field, away from prying eyes? He previously read about old burial sites that were lying underneath Pembrokeshire, although this was not a comforting thought whatsoever.
Could this be one of those sites?
Mysteries All Around
This uncertainty only filled him with a sense of horror! He knew he needed to think more positively in such an uncertain situation. He wasn’t going to walk away from this scene, but he was anxious to see what would happen next. It was not lost on him that Pembrokeshire has been described to be a land of enchantment and mystery by the unknown author of the 11-century folktale collection known as The Mabinogion.
Anything could be possible.
What Was In Store For Him
The last rocky Welsh outpost is surrounded by the Celtic Sea and continues to be steeped in myth and legend. There was so much mystery and there were so many questions about what Mike was about to find. It is no wonder it has since become known as one of the world’s most haunted places.
However, Mike did not know that he was about to go face-to-face with the eerie past of the country.
As soon as the day broke out, he already found himself outside. He headed for the site right away. He needed to find out what was lying at the other end of that mysterious chain. What secrets could be lying there for such a long time? He did not think that it would lead to authorities on the field later that day.
What was about to happen would surprise everyone who was helping out at the scene.
The Ground Opens
Mike found the site the same way he left it. He was ready to get back to digging, although he was feeling some trepidation this time around.
As he uncovered more of this strange object, he noticed something. There appeared to be a hole beneath the chain. He plunged his spade into the opening and gasped when it hit empty air. Then he felt himself falling.
The earth opened up and Mike fell straight through. Thankfully, he had only fallen a few feet. But as he sat in the dark, he remembered the torch he had packed in his backpack. He was surprised to see that he had entered a chamber of some kind.
He shone his flashlight on the walls and the floor and fear filled his heart.
Mike looked up at the cavern’s ceiling in awe, his flashlight illuminating sections of the rock piece by piece. There were layers and layers of scratches in the stone walls. They covered almost every surface.
But then, something else caught Mike’s eye.
Scratched Into the Stone
There was something about these markings that he had seen before… the way they were frantically and chaotically etched into the stone.
He ran to the far wall, where the scratches were the most obvious. He ran his fingers over the etchings with his fingertips and saw that they formed the letters ‘V V’.
Over and Over
The ominous ‘V V’ symbol was repeated dozens of times, all over the surface of the rock face. It was carved almost compulsively with a trembling hand, over and over again.
Mike had no idea what he was dealing with. He followed the eerie markings to a four-foot hole in the ground, where the marks reached a terrifying and silent crescendo. And just beside the entrance, something lay. It was caked in mud.
A Chilling Discovery
Mike could not stop his eyes from going wide when he wiped off the dirt and found something brown and hard. He couldn’t believe what he was looking at.
He was a metal detecting hobbyist, so he knew the laws that came with his findings. However, not once did he expect he would have to call the authorities. He had never been in this situation before!
Uncovering The Bones
The dig had been nothing more than a fun excursion in the beginning, but he learned that he was out of his depth as soon as he discovered human remains.
There could be so many outcomes from this discovery…
He Needed Help
Mike inspected the object he had in his hands and was terrified when it dawned on him that he was holding a tooth!
To be specific, it was a molar. He shuddered when he realized that something was amiss here. He was down in the dark, in a hole beneath the earth, with no way of getting out.
Calling Someone To Help
He dropped his tools right away and quickly grabbed his phone, and then dialed an important number.
His fingers were shaking the whole time. However, he did not get the reaction he had been expecting.
Ringing The Authorities
Mike got in touch with the officials at the National Museum of Wales before anyone else.
However, they only laughed at him when he made the call! They didn’t believe a word he was saying to them!
He Wasn’t Lying
“What the archaeologists said at the time was that because there had never been a find down here before, they didn’t believe it,” he recounted during an interview.
How could he prove that he was telling the truth?
How To Convince Them
Mike needed to convince them that he was telling the truth, so he dropped that he had reason to believe that there were human remains there.
As soon as he said this, they changed their attitude in no time.
They Were Speechless
They asked him to send them his location so that they could send out a rescue party. “The look on their faces when they saw it said it all,” Mike recalled later.
Mike was just thankful that they took him seriously and came to help him.
The Excavation Process
This was how the excavation began that June. Archaeologists found two rusted iron chariot wheels.
This was what they needed to confirm that this was a promising discovery. It was a Celtic chariot burial site!
Bragging To His Friends
“My first find was a Celtic horse harness junction piece,” Mike informed reporters.
“When I found it my friends said I would never top it, but the next day I went back and found the rest.” But what about the cavern Mike had found underground?
Allison Fearn, a Ph.D. of Archeology at the University of Leicester, reveals that these particular markings are usually found on places of worship or the doorframes of homes. But the act of painstakingly carving them into the stone walls of a cave is a product of a much deeper fear.
The sheer quantity of the witch marks found inside the caves indicates that something strange was going on in Pembrokeshire.
Historians dated the markings between the 14th and 18th century, and Allison believes that the reference to The Virgin Mary within the protective marks indicates that the villagers were afraid of demons.
The townsfolk clearly believed that the abyss within Pembrokeshire was a gateway to the underworld, and they were terrified by what might live within.
“The marks are incredible. I did actually swear when I first saw them, I had never seen anything like them,” Allison added.
“They probably acted as protection, from spirits, demons fairies, and witches. We know that witches were feared and witch hunts were happening all over Europe. They definitely seem to have some kind of fearful context.”
In Plain Sight
“You could think of the witch marks as worry lines that demonstrate the anxieties of the time. These marks are a kind of folk magic and the hole in the ground may have represented some kind of Pandora’s Box,” John added.
“These witches’ marks were in plain sight all the time. Being present at the moment their true significance was revealed will stay with me forever.”
Sign of the Times
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, believes he has a logical explanation for the supernatural markings.
“Two hundred years ago, the English countryside was a very different place, death and disease were everyday companions and evil forces could readily be imagined in the dark,” Duncan explains. “We can only speculate on what it was the people of Pembrokeshire feared might emerge from the underworld into these caves.
Another theory about the reasons for the mysterious witch marks is that the villagers of Pembrokeshire were facing an influx of deadly disease, poverty, or famine. These very real threats could have been attributed to dark forces, or witches.
John Charlesworth thinks that the land itself may have led to such superstition among the town’s inhabitants, explaining that the rolling natural landscape incited fear of the unknown.
“These are places where supernatural forces in an untamed non-human environment could be at work. Local people are in the jaws of this monstrous landscape,” John explained.
Nevertheless, the witch marks were an important and historical find. They give a unique insight into the everyday lives of those who lived there hundreds of years ago. But the cavern filled with witch marks wasn’t the only historic artifact that Mike found in the area…
What Else Was There?
After he dug a hole around eight inches deep into the ground, Mike discovered other decorative items such as a brooch, bronze bridle fittings, and some tool handles. What were these items from?
He couldn’t wait until everything was pieced together properly.
Entering With Caution
All of these items had turned green from all the corrosion, although the bronze bits were still wrapped in bright red enamel.
He wanted to be very careful with these items, of course, as he didn’t know if they were valuable!
He Was Blown Away
“This is unprecedented,” he said, “and underneath the chariot, there is still the three-meter metal anomaly. If you go by other chariot finds there could be weapons or it could even be treasure.”
He couldn’t believe what he found.
Achieving His Dream
It was not unheard of to find a burial chariot dating from the period all over Europe.
However, what made it so special was the fact that this was the first one they found in the United Kingdom.
Is This Real Life?
“I still can’t believe it,” he said. “Obviously I’ve read other people’s finds. I’ve watched them on the telly, and I’ve always thought, I wouldn’t mind finding that, it’s still surreal, and life-changing.”
He thought he was dreaming!
A Gut Feeling
He went on, “It was just instinct. I’d read all about chariot burials and just wished it could have been me, so finding this has been a privilege.”
Now that his hobby has led to a major discovery, the location has since come under legal protection.
Aside from that, Mike needed to sell the artifacts that he got there from the day before the actual excavation under the law.
What did he get anyway? There were so many things that he found that he wanted answers about.
Following The Law
Aside from that, Mike needed to sell all of the artifacts that he got there, even from the day before the actual excavation; it was a very strict law he was dealing with.
What did he get, anyway?
Selling Everything He Found
Overall, he discovered a total of 34 items. They were then sold to the museum, but it is good to hear that he got compensated for them handsomely.
He needed to split the profit he made with the person who owned the land he discovered them in.
The treasure has since become a very sought-after prize! As a testament to that, the National Museum of Wales also wanted to get them for the archives.
Mike couldn’t believe that what started as a regular day became something he’d remember forever.
Exciting Iron Age Discovery
A National Museum of Wales spokesman said the site was a very exciting Iron Age discovery that could be developed into a bigger project in the future. “Full excavation of the site and analysis of the find will need to be carried out before we can fully understand its importance. The site now enjoys legal protection.”
They added: “A preliminary excavation of the site where the artifacts were found was carried out jointly by Amgueddfa Cymru and Dyfed Archaeological Trust over the summer, partly funded by Cadw.”
This discovery revealed more significant and exciting discoveries at a once unknown Iron Age archaeological site.
The spokesperson went on and said, “Amgueddfa Cymru is working with its partners on this continuing treasure case and in developing a detailed and fully funded proposal for further investigation. It is intended that a wider museum project will be developed, to offer opportunities for local communities to become involved in revealing new stories about their prehistoric past.”
Mike, of Milford Haven, knew just how incredible his find was, saying: “It’s rare to find it in that good condition – it’s rare to find in any condition.”
Clearly, he’s done extensive research on the matter and didn’t think lightly of this discovery.
Another joint statement went on to say: “These are now the subject of an ongoing treasure case in Wales.”
A preliminary excavation of the site where the artifacts were found was carried out by Amgueddfa Cymru and Dyfed Archaeological Trust together over the summer and was partly funded by Cadw.
Since the age of 12, Mike has been a metal-detectorist when he got a metal detector as a Christmas gift from his dad. Ever since then, it has become a huge part of his life.
For this reason, Mike dedicated this incredible find to his 79-year-old dad, John Smith, who is getting palliative care after a stroke.
The Ancient Discovery
He has gone on the record with this comment: “I knew the importance of them straight away….I’d read all about chariot burials and just wished it could have been me, so finding this has been a privilege.”
The chariot is believed to be roughly 2,500 years old. However, they did not find human remains.
There is still plenty of conjecture about whether a queen or a chieftain had been buried with the chariot.
They found a tooth, although it seemed to belong to a horse that they believe was buried along with it.
High-ranking chiefs of the Iron Age normally got buried with their horses, chariot, tack, and weapons.
During the excavation, they found the tops of a set of chariot wheels. “Often the wheels were laid flat,” Mike explained.
“But this one appeared to have been buried intact. It could have had the chieftain or queen sitting in it. There would have been a mound over it but that has gone.”
He was in disbelief still, by the incredible discovery he made.
Straight Out Of Sci-Fi
After they quarantined the site to restrict access by the general public, they ran a ground-penetrating radar over the field.
What they found would make you think this is a science fiction novel or movie!
Survey work involved the use of some pretty sophisticated geophysical technology.
It let them map structure lying far below the earth. They found a ring ditch, which is a 12-meter circular earthwork, around the site.
More Ring Ditches
They also found two other burials, also located in ring ditches. Soon after this, they discovered a complex of walls and other similar features. This convinced researchers that this was a Celtic settlement that has remained hidden for a long time!
“The actual field is very large and it is only in the corner of this field. But the settlement is also going into other nearby fields,” Mike explained.
How To Go About It
Adam Gwilt is the principal curator of prehistoric archaeology at the museum.
He explained, “These chariot pieces may have been witness to some of the historical events of the time, as Iron Age peoples defended their ways of life and identities…”
What Comes Next
“…in the face of an expanding Roman empire. Something like this takes a lot of organization and funding as well so we’ve been working with a number of partners to put together what’s needed to do a continuing investigation.”
Mike was so proud of what he’d found, and Adam Gwilt couldn’t believe it either. So what comes next?
A Work In Progress
He went on to say, “Something like this takes a lot of organization and funding as well so we’ve been working with a number of partners to put together what’s needed to do a continuing investigation.”
There was one more question that everyone wanted to hear the answer to. How much was it worth?
From The Iron Age
“You’re definitely talking six or seven figures,” Mike Smith speculated.
“It’s the biggest ever metal detecting find, as in there’s never been a chariot ever discovered by a metal detectorist. There have been hoards found, but never anything like this.” We have to say that we feel a tinge of jealousy about the fact that he expects to net as much as £1 million for the discovery he made. Whoa.
One question that remains is: who were the Celts? As it turns out, the answer isn’t quite simple. The Celts were a collection of tribes that originated in central Europe. They shared a similar language, religious beliefs, traditions, and culture. it’s believed that Celtic culture began to evolve as early as 1200 B.C. Over time, the Celts spread out throughout western Europe, including Spain, France, Ireland, and Britain.
To this day, their legacy is prominent in Ireland and Great Britain, where traces of their language and culture are still present.
The first documentation of the Celts was in the seventh or eighth century B.C.
At the time, the Roman Empire ruled most of southern Europe and referred to the Celts as “Galli” which means barbarians.
Despite the Romans’ belief, the Celts (pronounced with a hard “c” or “k” sound) were anything but barbarians.
Many aspects of their culture and language have survived throughout the centuries and even to this day.
The Celts controlled a lot of the European continent north of the Alps mountain range by the third century B.C., including present-day Ireland and Great Britain. These islands off of Europe’s western coast are the ones that allowed the Celtic culture to survive and thrive as the Roman Empire expanded on the European continent. Starting with the reign of Julius Caesar in the first century B.C., the Romans launched a military operation again the Celts.
The Romans ended up killing Celts by the thousands and destroyed their culture in a lot of mainland Europe.
The Roman armies tried to invade Britain during this time but weren’t successful. Thanks to their failure, the Celtic people were able to establish a homeland there.
As a result, a lot of their cultural traditions are still evident in Ireland, Scotland, and Wales, even today.
Brittany, the region in the northwestern corner of present-day France, was settled with Britons and Gauls. The Celtic tradition survived in the region since it was isolated from the rest of France, and a lot of festivals and events can trave their origins back to Celtic times.
A lot of French “Bretons” also happen to wear traditional Celtic hats called coiffes (meaning “hats of lace”), and about one-quarter of the region’s residents speak Breton, a Celtic language that’s similar to Welsh.
Despite the fact that Caesar’s invasion of Britain wasn’t successful, the Romans eventually had a successful attack against the Britons after Caesar’s murder in the first century A.D. This pushed the Britons on the island west to Wales and Cornwall and north to Scotland.
As it turns out, the Romans actually built Hadrian’s Wall near what is now the border between England and Scotland, in 120 A.D. The wall was meant to protect the Roman settlers from the Celts who had fled north.
In Wales, named Cymru by the Celts, the native tongue, Welsh, is a Celtic language that is still widely spoken in the region today.
In Cornwall, a lot of residents still speak Cornish, which is similar to Welsh and Breton.
In Scotland, the Celtic language Scots Gaelic is spoken, although by a minority, and the local affiliate of the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) is known as BBC Alba, the Celtic name for the region.
Naturally, the bagpipes, the musical instrument that Scotland is best known for, can also be traced back to its Celtic roots.
Even though the Anglo-Saxons, who took what is now England from the Romans in the fifth century A.D., tried, they weren’t able to successfully invade Ireland.
Because of this, the Celtic tribes were able to settle there – namely, the Gaels and the Irish – to survive, and allowed their culture to flourish.
In 432 A.D., when Christianity arrived in Ireland with St. Patrick, a lot of Celtic traditions were incorporated into the “new” religion.
In fact, it’s said by some historians that one of the main reasons Catholicism was able to take over as the dominant religion on the island after the mass killing of Druids, the religious leader of the Gaels.
All the same, even with Christianity’s newfound prominence, traces of Celtic culture remain.
For instance, Ireland’s national symbol, the shamrock (a green, three-pronged leaf) represents the “Holy Trinity” of Catholic tradition – the Father (God), Son (Jesus Christ), and the Holy Spirit.
To top it off, the Celtic cross represents the region’s unique take on the Catholic cross. In addition, a lot of Celtic folklore stories, are still told in Ireland. Like Welsh, the Irish language, Gaelic, is a Celtic language.
For the most part, Gaelic disappeared in the 19th century, when the English colonized Ireland, but the language is still spoken in the western part of the country.
A Celtic group of people who occupied part of western-central Europe during the Iron Age was the Gauls. They were fearsome warriors who would cut off the heads of their enemies and hang them on their horses for everyone to see.
Some would go as far as attaching the heads of fallen foes to their shields to scare their enemies when they went into battle.
Key To The Soul
Celts had a strong belief that the head was the key to the soul and represented a way to communicate with the afterlife.
One historian wrote that Gauls were tall, light-skinned, light-haired, and light-eyed.