British Collection Highlights:

The Penbryn Spoons

This pair of Late Iron Age cast bronze ‘spoons’ was found in 1829 beneath a heap of stones inside the Castell Nadolig hillfort, near Penbryn in Ceredigion, Wales. They were found by a tenant farmer, and were donated to the Ashmolean in 1836 by the Reverend Henry Jenkins, B.D. of Magdalen College.

The spoons are wide and shallow with short decorated handles. One spoon has a small hole on the right hand side. The bowl of the other is divided into four areas by an incised cross, and each of these quadrants seems originally to have had a small circular inlay. Two inlays survive; one of gold and the other of a tin-rich copper alloy. One inlay is missing and the composition of the final one cannot be determined. It has been suggested that the inlays were originally of different coloured metals. Researchers believe that the spoons may have been used for divining (telling the future), with liquid dripped from the spoon with the side hole onto the divided one.

At present there are only 25 of these spoons known, most from Britain and Ireland with one pair from northern France. They are usually found in pairs (10 sets), and the five single spoons might well have also once have been part of a pair. The Penbryn Spoons appear to date to the period 50 BC - AD 100 on the basis of the style of the decoration and that scientific analysis suggests that the gold inlay could have come from a coin.

The spoons are on display in the 'European Prehistory' gallery on the ground floor.

Click to enlarge

Penbryn Spoons (AN 1836 p 147,508-9, NC 456-7) (Click to enlarge)

Pair of Spoons from Penbryn
(AN 1836 p 147,508-9)

Further Information

Barnwell, E. L., 'Bronze articles supposed to be spoons'. Archaeologia Cambrensis 8 (1862), 208-19.

Way, A., ‘Notices of certain Bronze Relics, of a peculiar type, assigned to the Late Celtic Period’. The Archaeological Journal 26 (1869), 52-83. (Available online from the Archaeology Data Service)

Fitzpatrick, A.P. ‘Druids: Towards an Archaeology’. In, C. Gosden, H. Hamerow, P. de Jersey and G. Lock (editors) Communities and Connections: Essays in honour of Barry Cunliffe (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 287-315. (Available on )

About Catell Nadolig hillfort

Find out more about:

Sarah Glover
updated by Alison Roberts, September 2015,