The Havering Hoard, a cache of 453 bronze objects dating to 900 – 800 B.C. that was discovered in a 2018 archaeological survey in an east London quarry overlooking the Thames, is even more unusual that it seemed when the find was announced last year. Museum of London curators have been examining the objects closely before they go on display for the first time and have discovered additional rarities.
The collection of chisels, sickles, metal ingots, weapons and axe heads is the largest Bronze Age hoard ever discovered in London and the third largest ever found in the UK, and it includes two decorated terret rings — fittings from a horse-drawn cart that kept reins from getting tangled — that are unique for the UK. Terret rings have been found before in France, but not Britain. Conservators have now identified a bracelet that was imported, likely from northwest France, and copper ingots from the Alps.
Kate Sumnall, a curator of archaeology at the museum, said the unexpected finds suggested links to Europe that were nearly 3,000 years old.
“These objects give clues about how this wasn’t an isolated community but rather one that fitted into a much larger cultural group with connections along the Thames Valley and across the continent.”
The question of how and why this hoard was assembled and deposited remains unanswered.
There are four theories about why so many objects would have been deliberately broken and meticulously buried.
- Was it a ritualistic offering to the gods?
- Was it to do with it being the late bronze age and start of the iron age, so the objects were no longer so highly valued or wanted?
- Could a powerful person have been trying to control the amount of bronze that was in circulation and being traded?
- Or was the location a kind of bronze age storage site? The total weight of the objects is 45kg [99 lbs], so they could not have been easily carried around.
The hoard will be going on display for the first time in an exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands this spring. Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery opens April 3rd and runs through November 1st.