Huge Bronze Age treasure hoard unearthed on the banks of the Thames may have been an ‘offering to the gods’ before it was buried 3,000 years ago
- Axes, swords, spears, daggers and jewellery among the 453-item collection
- Trove was dug up on a building site in Havering, east London, last September
- Officially declared treasure this year and is third largest Bronze Age find in UK
Hundreds of Bronze Age weapons discovered on a building site by the banks of the Thames may have been an offering to the gods, experts say.
The treasure trove of 453 artefacts dating back nearly 3,000 years was discovered in Havering, east London, last September.
Axes, swords, spears, rings, daggers and copper ingots make up the ancient collection, which dates from between 800BC and 900BC.
They were found by archaeologists who were asked to look at a site being developed for gravel extraction.
Experts believe the location may have been a weapon shop or blacksmiths due to how carefully the items were grouped together.
They also haven’t ruled out the collection being an offering to the gods, a common practice in Bronze Age societies.
The find was officially declared a treasure earlier this year and is the third largest Bronze Age discovery ever in the UK.
Dubbed the Havering Hoard, it will form the centrepiece of a major exhibition at the Museum of London from April.
A group of 453 artefacts, including axes, swords, spears, rings, daggers and copper ingots, were found in east London last year
An axe head was one of the more fascinating items in the treasure trove, which is due to go on exhibition next year. The Bronze Age find dates from between 800BC and 900BC
Curator Kate Sumnall, from the Museum of London, said: ‘This exceptional discovery came up. We can tell a lot about what life was like for Bronze Age people living in this part of London.
‘Hoarding is something we see a lot of in the late Bronze Age. We don’t have all the answers. Our knowledge of the Bronze Age is quite fragmentary.
‘But every time we find something it gives us another piece in that jigsaw puzzle.
‘This may have been a store, for a metal worker, or some sort of offering to the gods perhaps. We don’t know.
‘It may have been for recycling. Bronze can be melted down and recast almost an infinite number of times.’
It is well-known that Bronze Age societies made sacrifices to appease their gods.
Offerings were made by either burying the sacrifice in the ground or placing it in water.
Ms Sumnall added: ‘There are a lot of overlaps between what we know about the Bronze Age and today.
Experts believe the site may have been an armoury vault, weapon shops or blacksmiths due to how carefully the items were grouped together
The treasure was found by archaeologists who were asked to look at a site being developed for gravel extraction
‘There was climate change, but that was part of a natural pattern, and so water levels were rising.
‘If settlements were adjacent to rivers, people may have had to move and the weapons could have been buried then.’
Almost all the objects appear to be partially broken or damaged and it is not known why they were not recovered.
Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson said: ‘This extraordinary discovery adds immensely to our understanding of Bronze Age life…
‘The opportunity to investigate here and ultimately unearth the remarkable hoards that have come to light was only possible because of the effective partnership between archaeologists and developers.’
Roy Stephenson, London’s historic environment lead at the Museum Of London, said: ‘We’re thrilled to be able to display this momentous discovery for the first time at the Museum Of London Docklands as the centrepiece of a major exhibition in April 2020.’
The museum has acquired the objects after they were declared treasure by the coroner.
The hoard will travel to the Havering Museum for display after going on show at the Museum Of London Docklands.
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT BRONZE AGE BRITAIN?
The Bronze Age in Britain began around 2,000 BC and lasted for nearly 1,500 years.
It was a time when sophisticated bronze tools, pots and weapons were brought over from continental Europe.
Skulls uncovered from this period are vastly different from Stone Age skulls, which suggests this period of migration brought new ideas and new blood from overseas.
Bronze is made from 10 per cent tin and 90 per cent copper, both of which were in abundance at the time.
Crete appears to be a centre of expansion for the bronze trade in Europe and weapons first came over from the Mycenaeans in southern Russia.
It is widely believed bronze first came to Britain with the Beaker people who lived about 4,500 years ago in the temperate zones of Europe.
They received their name from their distinctive bell-shaped beakers, decorated in horizontal zones by finely toothed stamps.
The decorated pots are almost ubiquitous across Europe, and could have been used as drinking vessels or ceremonious urns.
Believed to be originally from Spain, the Beaker folk soon spread into central and western Europe in their search for metals.
Textile production was also under way at the time and people wore wrap-around skirts, tunics and cloaks. Men were generally clean-shaven and had long hair.
The dead were cremated or buried in small cemeteries near settlements.
This period was followed by the Iron Age which started around 650 BC and finished around 43 AD.