Iron Age Capel Garmon Firedog from 2,000 years ago secured by National Museums Wales

By Culture24 Reporter Published: 09 January 2012

A photo of an ancient iron sculpture in the shape of a horse
National Museums Wales are the proud owners of an elaborate firedog
© National Museum Wales
A 2,000-year-old firedog, formed in the image of a mythical ox-horse beast and used in the hearth of an Iron Age chieftain's roundhouse, has been given to National Museums Wales after government ministers agreed it could replace inheritance tax under the Acceptance in Lieu scheme.

The Capel Garmon Firedog, found carefully buried under large stones in a possible tribute to its owner, was discovered in May 1852 by a man cutting a ditch through a peat bog on farmland in Conwy. It represents one of the country's earliest examples of Celtic art.

"It is a privilege for us to care for the firedog on behalf of the people of Wales," said David Anderson, the Director General of the institution, having seen the previously on-loan treasure become one of the most popular objects in the Origins: In Search of Early Wales gallery at National Museum Cardiff.

"The Acceptance in Lieu scheme, approved by our Minister, is an important way of ensuring an institution like the Museum can acquire and care for important objects such as these.

"The firedog will be shared with the thousands of visitors who come to the Museum each year and play a key role in communicating the history of Wales."
X-rays on the piece, which is made of 85 separately-shaped elements and originally weighed 38kg, have revealed the immense skills of the early blacksmith who made it. Experts attempting to replicate the design believe it would have taken up to three years to make, crafted in an era when iron held lucrative value.
The firedog is expected to be displayed in future new galleries at St Fagans: National History Museum as part of the Creu Hanes – Making History project.