Mona, (2007/8)

The film Mona (from Mona Insula, the Roman name for the Isle of Anglesey) was the result of a collaboration with Oriel Ynys Môn, Amgueddfa Cymru – National Museum Wales, The Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh and five primary schools on the island.

The project represented a landmark in terms of ‘returning’ specific archaeological objects to their native landscape (albeit in digital fashion) and the creative consideration of those objects by the present day inhabitants of that landscape.

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Thus the film, which in essence is a group meditation, represents a connection of past and present lives founded on the shared habitation of a place – with its ancient material culture as catalyst.

Mona is, in footballing parlance, a film of two halves, reflecting the question central to the development of the project. That is: the written word or the object – which speaks the greater truth?

Firstly, it deals with the Iron Age ritual site at Llyn Cerrig Bach on the western side of Anglesey. Here, in 1943 a hugely significant assembly of over one hundred and fifty metal objects – including swords, spearheads, chariot and horse harness and two slave chains – was unearthed during the course of works to extend the runway at neighbouring RAF Valley. Thought to be gifts to the deities of the lake, these objects tell us much of the society that made them – and valued them sufficiently to consider them worthy sacrifices.

Secondly, it looks at the Roman historian Tacitus’ colourful account of the Roman assault on the island in AD60, which was intended to destroy the Druids, the spiritual and political elite of Iron Age society. This was written several decades after the event itself, at which Tacitus, a political figure of considerable standing, was not present.

In seeking the truth surrounding this pivotal moment, when prehistory collided with history, which should we trust more? Tacitus’ words – or archaeological finds?

Consideration of such issues seemed particularly poignant in the light of the Twenty First Century conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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