The largest ever Bronze Age hoard in London has been discovered
21 October 2019
Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery
Museum of London Docklands
Fri 3 Apr – Sun 25 Oct 2020
The largest ever Bronze Age hoard to be discovered in London, the third largest of its kind in the UK, has been unearthed in Havering. This significant find will go on display for the first time as the focal point of a major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands in April 2020.
A total of 453 bronze objects dating between c.900 and c.800BC have been uncovered during a planned archaeological investigation, with weapons including axe heads, spearheads, fragments of swords, daggers and knives found alongside some other unusual objects, which are rarely found in the UK. This discovery is hugely significant as these objects were recovered from four separate individual and deliberately placed hoards within a large ancient enclosure ditch, whereas most hoards are discovered in isolation.
Almost all the weapons appear to be partially broken or damaged, raising questions as to why these objects ended up being carefully buried in groups close together. The deliberate placement of these items may suggest a specialist metal worker operated in this area, and this large scale deposit of bronze may represent an accumulation of material akin to a vault, recycling bank or exchange. Could this treasure have been a religious offering, were they hoping to recycle the metal, control access to the material, or was it merely a rejection of bronze tools that were becoming outdated with the emergence of iron technology?
Objects from the hoard and an in-depth look into these questions will be presented to the public for the first time next year at the Museum of London Docklands. All the archaeological work was agreed with and closely monitored by Historic England, assisted by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, and further conservation and analysis of the artefacts is currently underway which will reveal more insights into this incredible find.
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.
It’s incredibly rare to have uncovered four separate hoards of such size on one site. This discovery is also of huge importance due to the deliberate placement of each deposit and raises questions as to why this treasure was buried in this way and why it was never recovered? These questions and more will be investigated in the exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands next year.
Our thanks go to Archaeological Solutions, Historic England, Ingrebourne Valley Ltd, and Havering Museum who we’ve worked closely with on this find. We look forward to working with them more as we move towards the opening of the exhibition.”
Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England, said: “This extraordinary discovery adds immensely to our understanding of Bronze Age life. It also underlines the importance of planned assessment and, when appropriate, excavation in archaeological hotspots when new development comes along. 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.
The finds have already taught us a great deal about this distant age, and on-going analysis and public outreach means that many more people will benefit from this window into the past thanks to this example of successful development-led archaeology.”
Andrew Peachey, Specialist in Prehistoric and Roman Pottery, at Archaeological Solutions said: “The excavation has been an unprecedented opportunity and experience for our team to be able to excavate these intricate bronze hoards in such a valuable context. The setting of many hoards is often unclear, but these were deliberately placed and aligned within a late Bronze Age enclosure so that we could excavate them in their entirety.
The location of the enclosure and hoards, overlooking the river Thames, made for a dramatic setting, especially as the sun rose and set, highlighting that in prehistory this would have been a special location. We are very grateful for the continued support of Ingrebourne Valley Ltd and look forward to further specialist analysis of the finds and working with the Museum of London on an exhibition to bring new life to old bronzes.”
Peter Stewart, Chair of the Havering Museum, said: “Havering Museum is very proud to be associated with the Museum of London and to be given the opportunity of displaying artefacts from the incredible Bronze Age Hoard following the major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands. The Hoard is hugely significant in the long history of Havering and London and will prove to be a great attraction and educational resource for both museums.”
About the Museum of London Docklands
The Museum of London Docklands is located at West India Quay in east London. Opened in 2003, this grade one listed converted Georgian sugar warehouse specifically tells the story of the port, river and city – focusing on trade, migration and commerce in London.
The museum is open daily 10am – 6pm and is FREE to all, and you can explore the Museum of London Docklands with collections online – home to 90,000 objects with more added regularly. www.museumoflondon.org.uk.
About Historic England
Historic England is the public body that helps people care for, enjoy and celebrate England’s spectacular historic environment, from beaches and battlefields to parks and pie shops. We protect, champion and save the places that define who we are and where we’ve come from as a nation. We care passionately about the stories they tell, the ideas they represent and the people who live, work and play among them. Working with communities and specialists we share our passion, knowledge and skills to inspire interest, care and conservation, so everyone can keep enjoying and looking after the history that surrounds us all. www.historicengland.org.uk
About Archaeological Solutions Ltd
Archaeological Solutions Ltd (AS) is an independent archaeological contractor undertaking a broad range of archaeological services throughout East Anglia; the South-East including London, and nationwide as required. The archaeological investigations undertaken by AS range from large quarries and residential schemes, to infrastructure and small private developments. The company was established in 2003, from the former Hertfordshire Archaeological Trust, and continues today with a vision of operating within the commercial (construction) sector to investigate and realise the potential of British archaeology to inform academic research objectives and public knowledge. www.archaeologicalsolutions.co.uk
About the Havering Museum
Havering Museum, recently awarded Full Accreditation by Arts Council England, collects and preserves objects which record the incredible history of the area that is now the London Borough of Havering, making them accessible to a wide audience through exhibitions, events and activities, education programmes, publications, web pages, Facebook and Twitter. Apart from being the proud heritage hub of Havering, the Museum has developed a strong community identity, taking pride in the achievements of local people, providing a huge range of opportunities for engagement in its work through volunteering, research projects and many other activities including a full programme of events involving care homes, schools and youth organisations. www.haveringmuseum.org.uk