A GROUP of Iron Age chariot fittings have been declared treasure at an inquest today (Thursday, January 31), a first of its kind to be found in Wales.

The 2,000-year-old discovery was made by Mike Smith in February 2018, while metal-detecting on farmland in south Pembrokeshire and led to the discovery of a first of its kind archaeological find in Wales.

The find included a large horse-brooch, a large terret (or rein-guide), a strap-union and harness fitting and fragments of a bridle-bit, all made of bronze with red-glass decoration.

These would once have been fixings to a chariot, which is yet to be excavated from the same site, and the accompanying leather harness for its highly trained pony-pair.

RELATED: The first Celtic chariot burial in Wales found in a Pembrokeshire field

Mark Layton, coroner for Pembrokeshire, distinguished between Mike's first find and items which were found later in 2018 when archaeologists visited the site with help from Mike.

These included more fragments of the large horse-brooch, bridle-bit fragments, harness-fittings, fragments from a second strap-union, and iron fragments from two chariot wheels.

These increased the find to a minimum of nine different artefacts.

These artefacts were made around 2,000 years ago during the Late Iron Age, probably around AD 25-75.

On both occasions other objects were found alongside the Celtic bronze, including a Roman brooch and coin.

But these were not classified as treasure, with a report to the coroner saying they were probably dropped at the site at a later date and were the “result of general Roman activity in the area.”

Western Telegraph: The rim tops of the two wheels of a Celtic chariot discovered at the site. PICTURE: Mike Smith.The rim tops of the two wheels of a Celtic chariot discovered at the site. PICTURE: Mike Smith.

The coroner also said the site of the chariot burial, which is being kept secret to prevent theft of artefacts still in the ground, is now a scheduled ancient monument and would be under the protection of Dyfed-Powys Police.

Some of the objects are elaborately decorated with late Celtic art designs, also known as late La Tène art.

According to the National Museum of Wales, the red glass was made and allowed to cool into shaped recesses in the bronze surfaces, to create distinctive and vibrant flowing designs.

This is the first time that a group of artefacts decorated with Celtic art decoration has been discovered in Pembrokeshire, giving a first glimpse of the styles and techniques used to decorate chariots in the tribal area of the Demetae or Octapitae peoples during the first century AD.

Their date, function and style were determined by comparing their shape and decoration with others already known across Britain.

Chariots were used to display the power and identity of their owners and tribal communities in Late Iron Age Britain.

Adam Gwilt, Principal Curator of Prehistoric Archaeology, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales said: “This discovery dates to an important period of social change at about the time of the invasion of western Britain by the Roman army, from the late 40s AD onwards.

“Iron Age tribes in Britain came into contact and conflict with Rome, as these two worlds and cultures collided.

“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, in the face of an expanding empire.”

Gwilym Hughes, Head of Cadw said: “The people of Iron Age Wales left behind a remarkable legacy which remains visible today in the hundreds of hillforts which still dominate our countryside and coasts. Beautiful artefacts like these show another side to their society.

“We may never know the names of their makers, but the objects demonstrate imaginative and clever craftsmanship, reflecting an inner world of colour and beauty.”

Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales will seek to purchase this treasure group on behalf of the nation and for the national collection.

Western Telegraph: Mike Smith, who found the Celtic bronze pieces.Mike Smith, who found the Celtic bronze pieces.

Mike Smith, who found the first pieces of treasure, told the inquest it was likely much more was still waiting under the ground.

“We have all heard of Castell Henllys, which is one acre in size. This field is approximately 16-acres and roughly a quarter of the field is taken up by a fort, so it is four times the size of Castell Henllys,” he said.