One of the greatest thrills is to discover something new for the first time. That’s exactly what happened to Mike Smith of Pembrokeshire, Wales. His childhood was spent wandering around outside trying to find the most unique things.
He was always sure to bring his trusty metal detector along with him. Mike continued to do this well into adulthood and never thought it would be possible to find anything truly extraordinary. When he stumbled upon an ancient buried chain, he decided to keep on digging. It’s a good thing he did.
Get To Know Mike Smith
The most important thing to know about Mike Smith of Pembrokeshire, Wales is that he loves exploring the outside world with his metal detector. It’s what he spent most of his free time doing as a child and continued well into adulthood.
Hearing the sound of his metal detector going off after finding something underground gave him goosebumps. He immediately had to know what was under there because it could be anything. One day he set off and walked around on some farmland. He moved his metal detector around and started to hear some beeping.
What Did He Find?
Anyone would wonder what would trigger a metal detector to go off, so for a metal detector enthusiast, it was all he could think about. There were endless possibilities of what it could be, so Mike had to get to the bottom of it.
He was only a few feet away from digging it up, so he didn’t think it would be too much of a hassle. Then, he thought it could be a matter for the police.
He Made Sure His Machine Was Working Properly
In order to be sure that his metal detector was working properly, Mike decided to survey the area and test for other things underground. He expected that the sound of the beep from the metal detector would grow fainter the further he went.
That wasn’t the case. Instead, the beeping continued and grew louder with every step he took. The day was rainy and windy, so Mike wasn’t sure if he would be able to get to the object underground.
There May Be A Problem
The fact that Mike’s metal detector kept growing louder was a cause for concern. His curiosity got to the best of him and he wasn’t sure if there was something dangerous down there.
He was on the cusp of a great discovery, so he had a gut feeling that it was time to take action. Being a metal detector enthusiast had taught Mike to trust his instincts and he was ready to uncover the truth.
Let’s Get To Digging
Mike had a general idea where he should start digging and went to grab a shovel. The soil was wet from the rain, which provided a bit of a challenge.
He was able to dig a hole about one foot wide and two feet deep and started to look around at what the metal detector had caught. At first, he had no idea what he was looking at, but knew that it was something that need further examining.
Inspecting His Discovery
All that Mike had found in the area before was a few old pennies, so he wasn’t really thinking that it would be anything more than that. This new discovery certainly wasn’t an old penny, but it wasn’t a rock or animal tooth either.
Although it wasn’t an old penny like before, it did look similar to some type of coin. Mike made sure to be extremely careful and took the object out of the dirt.
There Was More To This Coin-Like Object
Mike had just lifted this buried object out of the wet dirt and thought it could possibly be a coin. He began rubbing his thumb over it and noticed something new.
A mysterious inscription appeared and it was something Mike had never seen before. This was his biggest discovery yet and he wasn’t sure what would come next. He also needed to figure out what the object actually was and if it was historically significant.
The Excitement Didn’t Stop There
Mike was thrilled to have found the unique round object in the ground. The inscription was completely foreign to him, but he was eager to learn what it meant and if it was worth something.
He had no way to tell how old it was or why it had an inscription. He picked it up and gave it an intense look for a little while. He had no idea what it was, but was ready to find out.
What Was On The Hidden Object?
He kept flipping the found object over to study what was on it. From what he could tell, it looked like a human figure engraved on one side and a message on the other.
Mike was pretty sure it wasn’t a coin because there was a ring attached to the top of the object. The ring likely held some sort of chain or clip, but those were nowhere to be found; at least not yet.
Something Else Was There
This may have been Mike’s lucky day because after looking at that object, he saw something else sticking out of the dirt. He gave up trying to figure out the inscription and got to digging.
While the first object was fairly easy to dig out of the mud, this one was really stuck in there. He got down on his hands and knees and kept digging with his hands to try and get it out.
It Wouldn’t Budge
Whatever Mike thought he found would be tough to dig out of the ground. The object simply wouldn’t budge. Mike tried to get a better grip, but it still would not come out.
This frustrated him to no end and he decided that he would do whatever it took to get this mystery object out of the ground. Now, he was ready to pull again after putting his feet out for some leverage. Hopefully, it would all be worth it.
Why Didn’t It Come Out?
He continued to pull on the object and noticed that it didn’t look too heavy. It must be stuck or attached to something else underground.
Mike grabbed as much soil as he could in order to clear it away from the object and loosen it up. Indeed, he discovered that it was connected to something else underneath the soil. This piqued his curiosity even further as he dug down deeper to uncover what lay beneath.
Wait, There’s More
Down deeper into the dirt and mud he went. There was no stopping Mike from getting this object out of the ground. Then, he noticed something extraordinary.
He saw a second object turn up and that was followed by a third. Suddenly, he was able to recognize what it was. These mysterious round and rusted metal objects were part of a link or chain. Next, he had to figure out how long the chain went.
The Links Seemed Never Ending
It was kind of strange that Mike had found a long chain after discovering the other coin-like object. There was a chance the two had some sort of connection.
Mike kept pulling on the chain and it was as if it were never-ending. Finally, he reached the end of the links. He thought to himself that the chain must be attached to something truly special. This digging had taken him all day and he realized that it might be time to pack up.
The day really went by in a flash. Mike had made a couple of the biggest discoveries of his lifetime, but he couldn’t do it all in one day.
He knew there was something big attached to the chain, but he would have to wait until the next morning to keep digging. He got all of his belongings and headed home in eager anticipation for what would happen tomorrow. Maybe his discoveries would make him famous.
His Thoughts Before Bed That Night
It seemed almost impossible for Mike to fall asleep that night after having such a monumental day. He kept thinking about what would be on the other end of the rusty chain.
Only his best friends knew about what he was doing, so he hoped that no one else would try to come upon his discoveries and steal them. His mind started to fill up with all kinds of thoughts about the day’s events and what was to come.
Could It Be An Old Burial Site?
While it may have seemed like a great discovery at first, a new feeling started to sink in. Mike didn’t necessarily know if this old chain was something good or bad.
He recently started reading about an old burial site in the same area where he was digging, so there was a chance it could be an ancient burial chamber. This certainly wasn’t a comforting thought, but it did make his discovery a lot more interesting.
Pembrokeshire Was A Land Of Enchantment
It was not time for Mike to dwell on the what-ifs of the underground objects. In order for him to get over his negative thoughts, he needed to have a positive attitude about the whole thing.
According to an old folktale collection called The Mabinogion, Pembrokeshire was considered a land of enchantment and mystery. This was the area in which he was digging, so that meant there could be so many unique possibilities as to what he may find next.
Pembrokeshire Has Been Talked About For Centuries
The digging site Mike was working at is near a rocky outpost that’s surrounded by the Celtic Sea. The area has been mentioned in countless myths and legends that go back many centuries.
It has also been called one of the world’s most haunted places, so there was some validity to all the worrying that Mike was doing. As a new day was approaching, Mike was ready to tackle whatever was in store for him.
The Next Morning Finally Came
After tossing and turning throughout the night, the sun was up and so was Mike. He could think of nothing else as he quickly raced toward the digging site from the day before.
The urge of learning about what he had already found and what was yet to be uncovered was very strong. His immense anticipation would later turn into shock after learning that the authorities would be arriving on the scene later that day.
Coming Back To The Digging Site
When Mike arrived back to where he was the previous day, he noticed that nothing had changed since then. There was no question that he was immediately about to start digging, but he was more nervous than yesterday.
He was able to dig further into the ground to get the chain out more, but he noticed something underneath the chain. There was a weird hole there. He dug his shovel into the hole and the ground opened up beneath him.
Mike Fell Down The Hole
There was nowhere for him to go but down. When he dug his shovel into the hole there was nothing there and he fell through. Luckily, it was only a few feet and he was left unharmed.
Suddenly, he remembered he had packed a torch and got it out as fast as possible. Seeing where he was all lit up caused him to determine that he wasn’t in a hole after all. It was some kind of chamber.
A Chamber Of Secrets
He shined his light over the walls and floor and there were a lot of strange markings that he had never seen before. They looked similar to the markings on the little round objects he found the day prior.
The scratches took up almost the entire chamber. Mike put his fingers over the stone marks and noticed that they formed the letters “V V.” The letters were in some sort of pattern that repeated in many places throughout the area.
The Meaning Behind “V V”
Mike thought there must be something important about these letters. They seemed to be frantically carved into the wall as if someone was in a hurry to sketch it on there.
He had no idea what it meant, but he was willing to find out. Mike followed the “V V” pattern as far as he could go and found their stopping point in an eerie four-foot hole. Then, he noticed something covered in mud next to the hole.
Time To Call The Police
Being the curious man that he was, Mike got down and scraped off as much of the mud and dirt as he could from the unknown object. The moment he got all the dirt off, he was petrified.
He knew the rules of finding abnormal things because of his years of experience spent metal detecting. In all of his years, he had never come across anything remotely like this before. It was time to call the police.
This Is What Mike Found
When he got to the digging site that morning, Mike had no idea what was in store for him. He had now found something truly remarkable, yet it would make anyone feel uneasy.
It turned out to be human remains and Mike had no idea who they belonged to. When he got a closer look at the remains, he realized that he was holding a molar from someone’s mouth. This was a serious matter that he couldn’t handle alone.
He Was Ready To Share The News
Mike dropped everything he was doing and got out his phone to make a call. He was incredibly nervous because he wasn’t sure how the people on the other end would react.
The call ended up going to the National Museum of Wales. They had never heard of anything Mike found and actually laughed at him for calling. “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 said.
Convincing The Museum
Mike knew how much of a great and rare discovery all of these things were and he needed to convince the officials at the Museum of Wales that he was telling the truth.
Once he remembered to tell them about the human remains, they stopped laughing and started listening. They now had reason to believe that Mike may be the key to unlocking some of history’s biggest secrets. First, they had to figure out where he was.
Help Is On The Way
The officials at the museum asked for his location, so they could come and check out everything he found so far. Mike was eager to get their reaction to seeing it all in person.
It didn’t take too long for the scientists, rescue party, museum officials, and archaeologists to arrive on the scene. “The look on their faces when they saw it said it all,” Mike recalled. He was also grateful someone was there to rescue him from the hole.
Starting The Excavation Process
Mike had gone to the site in February and the research team waited about four months to get started on the excavation. Since professionals were on the case, they were able to find some more artifacts.
Archaeologists discovered two rusted chariot wheels, which was all they needed to confirm what they already thought the previous artifacts were. This was a huge moment in archaeology history and it was all thanks to Mike’s love for metal detecting.
A Celtic Chariot Burial Site
Finding the two rusted chariot wheels put all of the puzzle pieces together. The museum officials were able to confirm that this was indeed a Celtic chariot burial site. This explained the rusted chain he had found earlier.
“My first find was a Celtic horse harness junction piece,” Mike shared later in an interview. He went on to say, “When I found it my friends said I would never top it, but the next day I went back and found the rest.”
Finally Unlocking The Mysterious “V V” Marks
Archaeologists Rachel Hall and Allison Fearn were able to share that the “V V” carvings Mike had found in the cavern were actually witches markings. They were made to prevent witches from entering into places of worship or homes and protect the people inside.
These specific markings in Pembrokeshire were called Marian marks, which were the symbols of the Virgin Mary. The location of these carvings proved cause for concern for the archaeologists working there.
Going Deeper Into The Meaning Of The Markings
The historians at the site were able to date the “V V” markings to between the 14th and 18th centuries. They were likely carved there because the villagers were terribly afraid of demons and evil spirits.
Since the chamber was underground, researchers were likely to believe that the Celtic people who were living there during that time thought it was some sort of portal to the underworld. Clearly, the ancient people of Pembrokeshire thought there were dark powers beyond their world among them.
Witch Hunts Were Prevalent Back Then
These Virgin Mary markings were usually used for protection against witches, demons, fairies, and other evil spirits. This was also a time when witch hunts and a general fear of witches were happening all across Europe.
Archaeologist Allison Fearn said, “The marks are incredible…I had never seen anything like them.” Knowing the context behind this period in history and the folklore of Pembrokeshire, Fearn believed that there was certainly some fearfulness behind the “V V” markings.
These Markings Were Pretty Common
The Celtic people who lived in the area between the 14th and 18th centuries had great paranoia over everything related to dark spirits and black magic. The hole in the ground that Mike had stumbled upon was sort of like a Pandora’s box.
Historians who visited the site shared that it was very common to see these witch markings all around town during this time. Then, they realized there might be another reason those markings were there.
What Else Could The Markings Mean?
The Chief Executive of Historic England explained that these “V V” markings may have other tragic meanings behind them. “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,” he said.
He went on to explain, “We can only speculate on what it was the people of Pembrokeshire feared might emerge from the underworld in these caves.”
Disease, Famine, And More
The living conditions during this time period are far worse than most people can imagine. There was a spread of disease, famine, poverty, and more. Back then, some attributed these things to evil supernatural forces.
A retired professor of the New Testament Language and Literature named John Charlesworth thinks that the townspeople were very superstitious and did whatever it took to keep these dark forces away from them. They had a fear of the unknown due to the mystical-looking landscape of Pembrokeshire.
Mike Made New Discoveries
Now that Mike had figured out what those “V V” markings were, he was ready to make some new discoveries. He dug a hole nearby and found several items including a brooch, bronze bridle fittings, and tool handles.
These ancient items needed to be pieced together. Since they were centuries old, they had turned green from corrosion. Luckily, the bronze parts of the items had been preserved in red enamel. There was a good possibility that these could be worth a fortune.
The Iron Age
All of the artifacts Mike had found under the ground were from the Iron Age. It started around 800 BCE and went to about 43 CE, right before the nation moved to the Bronze Age.
During the Iron Age, people were using iron in their everyday lives for things such as housing, tools, and more. Iron and various other metals became widely available to the public. The advancement also led the population in the area to surpass one million.
Mike Made History
Mike was ecstatic to find out that this had been the first chariot burial to be discovered in the United Kingdom, especially because there had been quite a few all over Europe.
He had researched these kinds of discoveries before, but he never thought he would be the one to make such a monumental one. “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,” Mike said.
Facts About The Chariot
The archaeologists at the burial site believed that the chariot was close to 2,500-years-old. Although Mike thought he had found human remains at the site, the archaeologists told him he was wrong.
The tooth was actually from a horse that was buried with a queen or chieftain underneath the chariot. During the Iron Age, high-ranking officials were typically buried with their weapons, chariot, and horses. Mike learned that chariot wheels were usually buried flat, but that wasn’t the case with his discovery.
This Was A Different Kind Of Burial
While Mike’s previous research had led him to believe that the high-ranking officials were buried next to their chariot, he had come to the conclusion that this chariot had been placed upright and the official was placed inside.
Mike had unlocked a long-forgotten part of history, but he’d only just begun digging up the past. First, he needed to sort his artifacts. Then, he wanted to sell them, but there were very strict rules on what he could do.
Adding Some Technology To The Excavation
Museum officials decided it was best to block off all outsiders to the chariot burial site in order for them to do research and continue to look for items buried underground.
They brought in some high-tech instruments to perform “ground-penetrating radar” over the burial site. These instruments were fast and gigantic, so they were able to cover a lot of ground. Only a few moments later there was another huge discovery that kept everyone on their toes.
Archaeologists Found A Ditch Ring
Once the instruments were done surveying the land, they were able to uncover a ditch ring. It was almost 40-feet long and surrounded the burial site. Researchers weren’t done yet.
They had already found so much, that it just seemed probable that they would find a lot more. Researchers discovered two more chariot burials in the ditch rings. The archaeologists concluded that Mike had found a Celtic community that had been untouched for a very long time.
Mike had been the star of this excavation and found a total of 34 ancient Celtic artifacts. He was able to come into some money after selling them to the museum for a good price.
In order to not break the law, he needed to split his compensation with the person who owned the land at the burial site. The artifacts were sought out by people across the globe, which proved how much Mike’s discovery impacted history.
An Exciting Iron Age Discovery
This was quite a phenomenal find from the Iron Age. A spokesperson from the National Museum of Wales said, “Full excavation of the site and analysis of the find will need to be carried out before we can fully understand its importance.”
Mike and the team of researchers were able to get a deeper look into the lives of these people and understand how they lived during the days of the Iron Age. The team will continue doing as much research as they can on all of the artifacts.
How Much Were The Artifacts Worth?
Mike knew all of his artifacts were once in a lifetime discoveries: “It’s rare to find it in that good condition – it’s rare to find in any condition,” he said.
His treasures are worth at least six to seven figures because they are as rare as Mike had explained. “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,” he said.
A Beautiful Dedication
Mike has been a metal detecting enthusiast ever since he was a young kid and he owes it all to one very special person. When he was 12-years-old, his father gifted him a brand new metal detector for Christmas.
He became enamored with metal detecting and it helped him gain a closer bond with his dad. Mike dedicated his incredible find to his 79-year-old father, John Smith, who is seeking palliative care after suffering a stroke.