After Finding a Buried Chain, Mike Smith Unearthed a Dark Past

A man from Pembrokeshire, Wales, named Mike Smith turned out to be a very lucky man in 2018. He grew up with a metal detector, and since the age of 12, he would scour the fields, woods, and other locations in search of some buried treasure. His dream: to find something extraordinary. But the thing is he never expected to find such an ancient artifact.

Mike Smith holding an artifact
Source: Pinterest / Bruce Forbus

One day, he found a chain buried a few feet under the ground he was standing on. Once he found the item, he could have stopped. But his gut told him to keep digging, and so he did. At that moment, he never could have guessed what he was about to literally unearth. Thanks to his instincts, his further digging proved to be worth the effort. Mike Smith found himself in possession of something very interesting… and valuable.

This is his story…

A Metal Detector at Heart

Mike Smith has been a metal detecting enthusiast from Pembrokeshire, Wales, for quite some time. Going out and searching for buried treasure, even on a rainy day, was nothing out of the ordinary for this guy. After all, finding a buried treasure was a detector hobbyist’s dream. Rain or shine, this is what they do!

A man with a metal detector on the beach during sunset
Photo by katrin88888 / Shutterstock

But the act of detecting metal can get cumbersome, and the mind can wander. And that’s why Mike didn’t expect to be jolted out of his wandering mind when his machine started beeping loudly. It didn’t take long for his adrenaline to start pumping through his veins as he was swiveling his detector back and forth over the wet soil. So, what was down there?

All the Beeps

Mike has always considered himself to be a curious man. When his mental detector went off that rainy day, he knew he was going to see it through to the end. But who knew it would be such a monumental treasure? He certainly never anticipated ever needing to get the authorities involved, either!

A man searching for treasure using a metal detector
Photo by Voyagerix / Shutterstock

But there was no going back now. He had to know what it was that set his detector off. After the first beep, Mike swept the rest of the field. Typically, when someone walks away from a find, the beeping will grow fainter until it stops altogether. But as you can guess by now, that wasn’t the case for Mike!

Digging in the Field

It was strange, though, because the further he walked away from the original “beep location,” the louder the machine beeped. He wondered if it was a machine malfunction or if there something was really something down there that took up the entire underbelly of the field. He grabbed his handy dandy shovel and set to work on the damp soil.

Mike digging in the mud
Source: YouTube / Trending Stories

He started with a hole around a foot wide and two feet deep. Mike had used his detector in that same spot before, where he dug up a few old pennies that weren’t worth a lot. But this time, he dug up something that wasn’t a type of coin or even the common animal bone. This was something else.

Was it a Coin?

With care and precision, Mike lifted a small round object out of the soil. It sure looked like a coin, but after rubbing the earth off the surface, he started to notice an engraving. Puzzled, he inspected the object, trying to figure out what it could possibly be. It had a figure etched into one side while the other side had some kind of message.

A photograph of the coin he found
Source: Instagram / @mike_metaldetecting

What made him sure that this thing wasn’t a coin was the fact that it had a ring attached to the top of it. It looks as if it was attached to a chain or a clip at some point. But he didn’t take too much time analyzing the item because he just spotted another object in the dirt next to it.

It Was Connected to Something

Unlike the first artifact, this one was totally stuck in the mud. Mike put down his shovel and dug with his hands, hoping that his fingers would be their own detectors. But the thing wouldn’t budge, even when he sat back on his heels to get a good grip. Whatever it was, it was basically suctioned into the mud. But Mike didn’t give up.

Another photograph of the coin from the other side
Source: Instagram / @ mike_metaldetecting

No matter how hard he pulled, the object didn’t give way. The rusty old piece of metal didn’t look like it could be that heavy. Mike had to change his plan. On his second go, he started to see signs that the object was connected to something. But what that “something” was, he had no idea.

Links to What?

At this point, Mike had more questions than answers, and all he could do at that point was continue to dig. Eventually, he came across a third object. He finally realized that the mysterious round objects were links. He started to feel the goosebumps creep up his body as he understood that he was about to discover something interesting.

A man digging in a hole
Source: pixabay

As he dug up more and more of the links, he saw that they seemed to go on forever. But then he finally came to the end of the ancient chain. So, what on earth were these chains used for? But the afternoon sun began to set, and Mike began to pack up his things. Whatever was buried, there was going to have to wait until the morning.

Back to Digging

Mike’s mind wandered all night. What if he uncovered something terrible, and there was a reason the links were buried under the ground? The truth is, he recently read about old burial sites underneath Pembrokeshire. It wasn’t the most comforting of thoughts, not when he was trying to fall asleep. But he was just eager to get back to it and uncover more of the mystery.

A man digging
Photo by Marsan / Shutterstock

As soon as the sun came up, Mike was out the door. He didn’t know that by the end of the day, the authorities would also be on his digging site. Thankfully, Mike found the spot in the same shape that he left it.

A Chamber of Sorts

As the strange links popped out of the ground, he noticed something strange. He saw a hole beneath the chain. Not thinking twice, he thrust the shovel into the hole. And that’s when the ground broke from under his feet. Mike fell straight into the ground, landing a couple of feet below the surface. Luckily, he wasn’t injured.

A man rappelling into a hold in the ground
Photo by Tatiana Kovaleva / Shutterstock

He was wearing his backpack that had a flashlight in it, so that helped. After turning the light on, he saw that he fell into a chamber of sorts. He looked closer at the floor, walls, and ceiling, which is when fear began to creep in. What was this place that he accidentally found under this farm?

The Scratches on the Wall

As Mike inspected the chamber, he saw strange scratches on almost every surface of the place. And something about the markings felt familiar – as if he had seen them somewhere before. Mike ran his fingers over the markings. His fingers formed ‘VV.’ The conjoined V’s were actually repeated over and over on the wall.

Mike pointing out writing on a wall in a cave
Source: YouTube / ITV News

This haunting ‘VV’ symbol was making Mike uneasy. They were all over the walls. What made it even more terrifying was that the scratches looked as though they were carved in by someone’s fingernails. Mike had no idea where he was or what he should do. But the natural treasure hunter decided to follow the markings. They led him to yet another hold in the ground.

Caked in Mud

Beside the entrance was something caked in mud. Mike chalked up the courage to wipe off the mud. Underneath the hardened earth was something brown and hard to the touch. He knew exactly what he was looking at; he just didn’t want to believe it. A veteran metal detector hobbyist, Mike knew the laws when it came to discoveries such as this.

Mike using a small brush around an artifact in the mud
Source: YouTube / Trending Stories

He had no choice but to call the authorities and let them know what he had just found. He never expected that his discovery would lead him to human remains. There were so many possible reasons for why someone was buried under the farm, and each theory was scarier than the last. Mike realized that he was holding a human molar.

Holding Human Teeth

It’s then that Mike understood the severity of his situation. Not only was he in a dark hole with no way to get out, but he had just stumbled upon human teeth! He scrambled for his cell phone and called the National Museum of Wales. But their response wasn’t exactly what he expected. The museum’s officials basically laughed at him, not believing a word he told them.

The hole that Mike dug, rectangular in shape
Source: YouTube / Trending Stories

“What the archaeologists said at the time was that because there had never been a find down here before, they didn’t believe it,” Mike said. He knew that he had to change their minds somehow about this potential burial site. But what could he say that would make them take him seriously?

They Stopped Laughing

Then it dawned on him. Mike forgot to mention on the phone that he found human remains and not just an ancient chain with weird engravings in a chamber. He called back to tell them about the human teeth. And that’s when the officials at the museum stopped laughing. Mike gave them his location and waited for the scientists and rescue party.

Heddlu police officers walking through the woods
Source: YouTube / Trending Stories

When the museum’s officials and archaeologists arrived, they were in awe. Mike said, “The look on their faces when they saw it said it all.” Not only was Mike glad that the authorities were now taking him seriously, but he was also just happy to get out of that hole! Now, let the excavation process begin!

Witch Marks

The artifact removal process only began in June, which came four months after Mike’s discovery in February. With a proper game plan and excavation tools, archaeologists were then able to uncover two rusted chariot wheels. “My first find was a Celtic horse harness junction piece,” Mike said. “When I found it, my friends said I would never top it, but the next day I went back and found the rest.”

A photograph of the witches marks found in the cave
Source: Pinterest

According to archaeologist Rachel Hall, the ‘VV’ symbol is called a witch mark. She said those marks were intended to keep witches from entering a space. These specific engravings that Mike found are known as Marian marks. The marks, believed to be the initials of the Virgin Mary, were meant to protect the site of the symbols.

Keeping Demons Out

The cavern markings were different, however. They were scratched frantically into the wall. They were also all over the place. It turns out that something strange happened in Pembrokeshire a long time ago. Archaeologist Alison Fearn explained that the 14th and 18th-century markings were actually the townspeople’s way of keeping demons away.

Mike with a hardhat and light on it explaining the drawings on the cave wall
Source: YouTube / ITV News

And since they were carved into most of the available surfaces in the cavern, Mike agreed with this theory. It means that the townsfolk probably thought the chamber was as an entrance to the underworld, which is a thought that wasn’t necessarily taken very lightly in 14th century Europe. But that’s not everything Alison Fearn detected from those Virgin Mary symbols.

The Superstitious Nature

While the markings typically symbolize protection against demons and evil spirits, there was still another theory. Some historians believe that the village of Pembrokeshire faced an attack of famine, diseases, and poverty. These were things that could easily have been blamed on evil forces. A retired professor of the New Testament Language and Literature named John Charlesworth explained that the superstition surrounding the symbols probably overwhelmed the townspeople.

Upside down triangles drawn on the cave wall
Source: YouTube / ITV News

The village location, along with the underground cavern, made them fear the unknown. Even though they believed the cavern held demons, there was either a queen or chieftain that had been buried with their chariot at Mike’s discovery site. “I knew the importance of them straight away… I’d read all about chariot burials and just wished it could have been me, so finding this has been a privilege.”

2,500 Years Old

Archaeologists believe that the unearthed chariot is around 2,500 years old. But what about the human molar? Contrary to what Mike originally thought, there were no human remains. The tooth he found actually belonged to one of the horses that had been buried next to the queen or chieftain. With further research, they learned that high-ranking officials from the Iron Age were typically buried with their weapons, chariot, and horses.

View of a Chariot Pit
Source: Shutterstock

In a typical burial, the chariot wheels were laid flat. But this wasn’t the case with Mike’s discovery. He believes that the official was buried within the chariot, sitting straight up. There would have been a mound of dirt over them, but that has since leveled out through the centuries.

Finding More Than One Ditch Ring

After the area was roped off to the public, the excavation team had brought in the big tools. Considering all of the artifacts Mike stumbled across, ground-penetrating radar was necessary. The site turned into something that you would see in a National Treasure movie. If you thought was Mike found by himself was insane, you should see what geophysical sonar can find!

A large group of people working in the field with special tools to uncover artifacts
Photo by Openfinal / Shutterstock

After surveying the farmland, the archaeologists found what could be described as a ditch ring. The ring was 12 meters wide, and it surrounded the site. And they found more than one! Researchers ended up finding two more burials, both located in the ditch rings. They came to the conclusion that Mike had actually stumbled on a Celtic settlement

A Celtic Settlement

And it looks as though this Celtic settlement had stayed off of everyone’s radar for quite a long time. Aside from the ditch rings’ burial sites, Mike dug up 34 other items, including a brooch, tool handles, and bronze bits. “I still can’t believe it,” he said. “Obviously, I’ve read other people’s finds. I’ve watched them on the telly, and I’ve always thought, I wouldn’t mind finding that, it’s still surreal, and life-changing.”

The horseshoe looking chain that was stuck in the ground
Source: Instagram / @mikes_metaldetecting

Adam Gwilt, National Museum of Wales’ principal curator of prehistoric archaeology, explained that these findings were likely “witness to some great historical events of the time, as Iron Age people defended their ways of life and identity from the expansion of the Roman Empire.”

A Six or Seven-Figure Payout?

The project is ongoing and takes a lot of funding. Adam Gwilt and his team have been working with multiple partners to execute a full investigation of the artifacts. Mike is keeping his eye on the prize, though, and expects at least a six or seven-figure payout. Of course, he’s going to have to split his earnings with the landowners, too. But still!

Mike standing in front of the view of a body of water wearing headphones connected to his metal detector
Source: YouTube / Trending Stories

According to Mike, “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.” Who would ever think that a guy who loves to detect metal could unearth such a major excavation project? Here’s to you, Mike!

An Update on the Developing Story

The court at Milford Haven heard that the finds from the ritual burial site are now legally protected. Mike Smith says the finds could be worth a “life-changing” six- or seven-figure sum. Nine artifacts are now Crown property, and an independent evaluation committee will decide on Smith’s payout. That sum will then be shared fifty-fifty between him and the landowner.

An old mask with red on it
Source: Instagram / @mikes_metaldetecting

What does he plan on doing with the money that he will eventually receive? Well, he said that he hopes that he will be able to afford a bungalow for himself and his wife, who has difficulty climbing stairs. The National Museum of Wales said they would try to acquire the treasure “for the national collection and on behalf of the people of Wales.”

An Inner World of Color and Beauty

The finds from the ancient burial site were later identified by curators and museum archaeologists at the National Museum of Wales. The artifacts were dated back to AD 25-75 by comparing them with others that are already known across Britain. They learned that red glass was made and cooled into shaped recesses in the bronze surfaces, which is what created such distinctive and vibrant flowing designs.

Mike holding his artifacts with a photograph of what he found
Source: YouTube / Trending Stories

Gwilym Hughes said: “The objects demonstrate imaginative and clever craftsmanship, reflecting an inner world of color and beauty.” According to Hughes, something like this takes a lot of organization and lots of funding. It’s expected that more treasure inquests will come when the new dig begins, and Mike Smith would still have a claim to future finds.

Professional archaeologists rarely spend their time digging land based on stories and speculation, but this team of experts that excavated this virtually unreachable spot near the Canadian Coast had no solid reason to dig below the pine trees and layers of mud. They acted on a hunch and unraveled something that went down to be the most significant discoveries in the archaeological history of North America. Read on to know more:

Amidst the Great Bear Rainforest

Away from the Canadian coast, within the Great Bear Rainforest, a group of expert archaeologists was trying to test the authenticity of a folktale. They had no idea what they were really looking for, and they were knee-deep in cold mud.

Source: (Hakai Institute)

This was the first time any team had ventured here to look for something, because, well, nobody really thought they’d find anything. However, this enthusiastic lot believed that the world never ceases to amaze us, and they weren’t wrong.

Never-Seen-Before Artifacts

After a few hours of digging, the team couldn’t believe their eyes when they laid hands on what looked like the remains of a hearth. They continued digging, and the Earth continued to unravel more secrets for them.

Alisha Gauvreau holds a 6,000-year-old hand drill (fire-lighting tool). Photograph By Vancouver Sun

They found some sort of medieval weapons, tools that could be used for fishing, hunting and even igniting fires. Since everyone believed this island was never also inhabited by mankind, these finds were a huge revelation, but there was more to come.

The Folklore That Defied Belief

The current locals of the rainforest, the Heiltsuk People, are believed to be the first people to ever live there. They had always claimed that the very first members of their tribe hailed from the Ice Age and lived in the same place.

Credit: Keith Holmes/Hakai Institute

However, researchers and archaeologists never believed this claim, because it defies rational belief, and seems preposterous. Why? Because during the Ice Age, most of Western Canada was covered by glaciers and since the island is not far off the coast of Canada, admittedly, it’d be covered too.

The Heiltsuk Weren’t Wrong

The Heiltsuk were written off for many years, but after the team’s discoveries, it looked as if they were right all along. Before the team ever came, their presence on the island could only be proven till around 7190 BC, but with the help of the team, they were hoping to rectify that and claim ownership of the extended land.

Josh Vickers, of the Heiltsuk First Nation and the archeological team, holds up a rare 6,500-year-old carved wooden bi-point. (Joanne McSporran)

The Heiltsuk had been dwelling in the mountains, forests, and islands present in the central coast of British Columbia for thousands of years, eating mostly fish. But the new findings revealed that they were eating something else.

You Don’t/Can’t Hunt Fish with These Spears

As the team kept on excavating and recovering, new clues kept on appearing. They discovered many tools, most of them were giant spears. The team believed that these spears were impractical to hunt fish with. Moreover, there weren’t even any land mammals that could be hunted.

Alisha Gauvreau and Larissa Dixon prepare to take measurements of a worked wood artifact from the Triquet Island village site. The measurements will be used in Dixon’s independent class paper which Gauvreau will later reference for her Ph.D. thesis. Source: Martlet.ca

So, what were these spears really for? The team concluded that whoever these ancient people were, they must be hunting large sea mammals like the sea lion, walruses, and seals, etc. But how far does their history go? Were they really here during the Ice Age?

Tools That Required Fancy Raw Materials

Among other things, the team also recovered plenty of wood-carving tools. These tools seemed to have been made from obsidian, a type of glass that can only be obtained from volcanoes. But the strangest bit was that there were no volcanoes nearby.

Alisha Gauvreau, a University of Victoria Ph.D. student, takes notes as archeologist John Maxwell searches for artifacts in an excavation site on Triquet Island, where evidence of human habitation 14,000 years ago has been uncovered. Photograph By KEITH HOLMES, HAKAI INSTITUTE

That meant that the ancient people were voyaging far away from home, to places with volcanoes, to fetch the glass to make their tools. They could have used boats or traveled by land for these expeditions.

Remnants of Tsunamis

According to the team, they also found evidence that led them to believe that two massive tsunamis must have hit the Triquet Island, thousands of years ago. According to the sediment deposits on the beach, one must have come around 5,600 years ago, and the other, 6,700 years ago.

Archaeologists from UVic, Hakai Institute and local First Nations carefully sift through archaeological materials excavated on Triquet Island. Their findings reaffirm the Heiltsuk Nation’s oral history of an ice-free refuge on the coast during the last Ice Age over 14,000 years ago. Photo: Grant Callegari/Hakai Institute.

This could mean that the first group of people were wiped out by the tsunami and later, another group of people, who had different eating habits, came to occupy the island.

Carbon Dating Results

The moment of truth finally came when the carbon dating test results were back from the laboratory. In November 2016, the team realized that according to the results, the ancient civilization was far older than they had ever thought.

UVic Ph.D. student Alisha Gauvreau takes detailed notes during the excavation of village site on Triquet Island. Photo: Grant Callegari/Hakai Institute.

A bunch of charcoal flakes led them to this discovery, but it was proof enough to substantiate the claims of the indigenous tribe. These results shook the Canadian history and the Heiltsuk history to their core.

14,000 Years Back

There was a civilization inhabiting the Triquet Island, at least 14,000 years ago. That might not seem too high a number in the context of documented history, but to put things in perspective, consider this: these ancient relics point to a time before the wheel was ever invented.

Source: (Hakai Institute)

This was many thousand years before the Pyramids of Giza were ever made. This was also during the Ice Age which lasted for another 2,000 years; Ergo, this island was one of the few places between US and Canada that remained ice-free during the Ice Age.

Humans and Giant Animals Together?

Up until now, we believe that the giant land mammals like mammoths went extinct before human civilization ever came to be on the American continent, but according to these numbers, a different conclusion was made.

Source: ontheroadin.com

Since the island was inhabited by humans 14,000 years ago, it means that they must have come across giant animals, because they didn’t go extinct for another few thousand years. But how could that be possible? Were the giant spears used to hunt down these animals? Some of these answers, we may never get.