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The Mold Gold Cape

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1836,0902.1

  • Title (object)

    • The Mold Gold Cape
  • Description

    Gold cape. 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, and 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 founded with the cape may have served to strengthen the adornment further.

    More 

  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 1900BC-1600BC (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Weight: 560 grammes
    • Length: 465 millimetres
    • Width: 280 millimetres
    • Height: 235 millimetres
    • Length: 240 millimetres (neck opening)
    • Width: 220 millimetres (neck opening)
    • Length: 5.13 millimetres (sample)
    • Width: 5.67 millimetres (sample)
    • Thickness: 0.11 millimetres (sample)
    • Weight: 0.052 milligrams (sample)
  • Curator's comments

    The Mold Gold Cape was found in 1833 by workmen quarrying for stone in a burial mound. At the centre of the mound there was a stone-lined grave with the crushed gold cape around the fragmentary remains of a skeleton. Strips of bronze and many amber beads were also recovered, but only one of the beads reached the British Museum (1852,0615.1).

    The vast majority of the fragments have been reincorporated into the restored cape, except for seven fragments (1972,0601.1-4 and 1836,0902.4-6). Although these fragments were part of the original cape, the reincorporation into the restored cape was not possible.

    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.

    A small sample from a fragment of the cape has been taken for scientific analysis. It is a small triangular sheet fragment decorated with one embossed dot and one rib defined by a row of pointillé.

    More 

  • Bibliography

    • Powell 1953 bibliographic details
    • Needham 2000 bibliographic details
    • Needham 2012 bibliographic details
    • Murgia et al 2014 1.10.1 bibliographic details
    • MacGregor 2010 19 bibliographic details
  • Location

    G51/dc8

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:

    2013 7 Aug-14 Sep, Wrexham, Wrexham Museum, Spotlight: The Mold Gold Cape
    2013 2 Jul-4 Aug, Cardiff, National Museum of Wales, Spotlight: The Mold Gold Cape
    2010-2011, London, BM/BBC, 'A History of the World in 100 Objects'
    2005 26 Sep-17 Dec, Wrexham, County Borough Museum, Recreations
    2000-2001 Dec-Mar, Cardiff, National Museums and Galleries of Wales, What is Wales?
    1991 May-Sep, Cardiff, National Museum of Wales, Celts in Wales
    1985 1 Aug-13 Oct, Edinburgh, National Museum of Scotland, Symbols of Power at the Time of Stonehenge
    1984 5 Sep-15 Oct, Belgium, Tournai, Halle aux Drapes, Au Temps de Stonehenge

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

    Treatment date

    20 March 2002

    Reason for treatment

    Permanent Exhibition

    Treatment proposal

    Clean and reset to improve appearance. Infill all major gaps with gilt copper patterned to match original.

    Condition

    Req75261(Nov 2000). (Original restoration backing of pva and terylene net) After thirty years of handling the parts of this fragmentary object had become misaligned,there was dirt ingrained in the PVA adhesive of the joints and the whole surface was dull and dingy.

    Req.No78825 (2002); Gaps existed at both shoulders and the lower edge at the centre of the back. A portion of the cape was missing from an area extending from the neck hole diagonally to the front lower rim. This piece had been infilled in a former restoration (IMM.1964 [photos of 1964 restoration; PRB.M.81 - 83; metals index E102/0 -2]) using an electroform reproduction taken from the opposite side of the cape.[photos PEE.M.703 - 706; metals index E102/3 - E102/6]

    Treatment details

    1980; No Req; outside surface moulded with Silicon Rubber. Silastic RTV N9161. (P Shorer 11 Nov 1980) [photos, metals photos K10/1 - 8]

    Req 75261, ( Nov 2000); The joints were re-aligned by hand and the whole was thoroughly steam cleaned thus removing dirt and grime some of which had probaply been there since its acquisition. (IMM, 6hours)

    Req.78825 (30 Nov 2001). A method was devised which resembled the original technique in principle making it possible to manufacture infill pieces which closely copied the original goldwork. The new gilt copper pieces were held in place by tabs and 'Devcon' 5min epoxy adhesive. Requirements of display meant that the fibreglass mount was considerably cut down and lightened thus revealing a lot more of the inside of the restored cape. For aesthetic reasons some of the white polypropylene net restoration material was cut away and the remainder painted to match using powder pigments in shellac.

    About these records 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date

    1836

  • Acquisition notes

    Parts of the Mold gold cape and associated artefacts from the site came to the British Museum at intervals between 1836 and 1972 though the fragments acquired after 1836 were all small. Four gold sheet fragments from the cape were presented to the Grosvenor Museum, Chester by Mr George Lowe in 1953. They were loaned to the British Museum 1966-1987. One fragment belongs to the cape thought the other three appear to relate to fragments 1836.0902.2-3 which may be a distinct object.

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1836,0902.1

Gold cape or corslet; Made from single sheet of beaten gold, with raised decoration of ridges, separating rows of dots, rectangles and lozenges.

Gold cape or corslet; Made from single sheet of beaten gold, with raised decoration of ridges, separating rows of dots, rectangles and lozenges.

Image description

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Object reference number: BCB12980

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