This spectacular object from Dalby is a bit of a mystery! Its design is very similar to the Witham pins, found in the River Witham, Lincolnshire in 1826 and now housed in the British Museum (1858,1116.4). These are an elaborate triple set of silver -gilt linked pins, an object of extremely high status. These have been dated to the 8th Century and its possible that the mount was made by the same craftsman, but we do not yet know what it is.
Similar, but smaller objects have also been found without a clue to their function, such as the three conical mounts from the St Ninian’s Isle treasure (Youngs 1989, nos. 99-101) which may be sword fittings. Our mount has a small circular loop at the side near its base, which may suggest it had functioned as a lid of some sort?
The finely decorated silver gilt surface shows three pairs of fantastic beasts set in intricate interlace. Two sets are ‘griffin-like’ with long necks and wings, very like those on the Witham and the third are similar to frogs! It has a ‘Star of David’ motif at its apex which links borders filled with niello inlay (a black compound of sulphur with silver, lead, or copper).
Whatever its function, it demonstrates the high skill of a fine Saxon craftsman, and is so far, unique.
This object is one of a growing number of unusual Early Medieval objects from the Melton area coming through the Treasure system in the last two decades.
These delicate, rare and enigmatic objects are among the earliest metal objects from Britain. Made around the start of the Bronze Age 2500-2300BC, their function is still uncertain and as the name suggests they were originally thought to be basket ornaments. The ‘Amesbury Archer’ and his companion, found in 2002, were buried with similar artefacts that have been dubbed hair tresses or earrings as two pairs were found rolled up by the head of the Archer and his companion.
Ours have been compared to examples from Spain and Ireland, and are slightly different to the insular types, such as those found with the archer. Whatever their origin, it seems probable that high status personal adornment was their function. Investigations at the find spot, revealed evidence for a ploughed out round barrow and field walkers recovered an extremely rare Bronze Age ‘cannel coal’ conical button, so we are probably dealing with a high status burial in or near a round barrow that has been destroyed by constant ploughing.
They remain the oldest metalwork on the PAS database and the oldest example of metalwork from Leicestershire.
During the ‘Festival of Archaeology’, 15th-30th July, I will be at our museum sites promoting the work of the PAS, talking about Treasure and giving visitors a chance to handle some of our fabulous hoards for themselves!
Melton Museum Saturday 15th July and Thursday 27th July 10-12 and 1.30-4
Come and handle coins from local Roman hoards, learn about the Treasure on display with our Treasure trail, see local metal detected finds displayed by the Melton and Belvoir Search Society and visit the Hallaton Treasure touring exhibition.
Throughout the festival there will be drop-in activities with an archaeology theme. Have a go at the archaeology technology trail, Roman trail and make mosaics and Roman helmets.
Harborough Museum Tuesday 18th July and Saturday 22nd July 10- 12 and 1.30-4
Come and handle coins from the Hallaton Hoard, learn about the Treasure on display with our Treasure trail and see one of the Top 20 Treasures!
Charnwood Museum, Loughborough Saturday 29th July 10.30-3
Handle coins from local Roman and Medieval hoards, learn about the Treasure on display with our Treasure trail, speak to members of the Loughborough Coin and Search Society and see some of their finds.
There’s also ‘The Brilliant Bronze Age’ a Free gallery game – hunt around the museum to discover the clues about the Bronze Age, throughout the Festival of Archaeology.
These beautiful objects are extremely rare and show the skill of Bronze Age goldsmiths. The two cylindrical armlets are made from a band of sheet metal decorated by embossed ribs. They were found during excavations of the Lockington-Hemington Bronze Age cemetery, which contained at least 11, mainly ploughed out, barrows. They were found in a furnished grave in a barrow along with two pottery vessels and a copper dagger with wooden scabbard, unusually all the items were declared ‘Treasure Trove’.
The copper dagger is also very significant. It was the first of its type found in Britain and was buried in a wooden scabbard, amazingly fragments of this are still attached to the blade – an extremely rare survival.
The objects were excavated in 1994. The arm rings are on permanent display in the British Museum in room 51 (British Museum 1996,0901.2). The dagger and pottery are held in the care of Leicestershire Museums.
The pottery and replica arm rings will be on temporary display at Charnwood museum for the Festival of Archaeology and throughout the summer
This Bronze Age metalwork hoard has a wide date range of 1140 – 800 BC, as it contains two socketed axes (1020-800BC), an older Palstave type axe (1140-1020BC) and a very rare complete bronze axe mould for a Welby type axe (1020-800BC) – these were named after the village of Welby, Leicestershire, after the first of its type was found in a hoard there in 1875 and the axes now have a distribution across south and eastern England.
Complete Bronze axe moulds are exceptionally rare finds. When this was found a Sompting type axe mould was known from Roseberry Topping, Yorkshire, the PAS recorded one which was found for sale along with the rest of its hoard in an Oxford antiques shop (BERK-56BD17) and one is held by The Collection in Lincoln.
Since then the PAS has added a few more such as Sutton, Suffolk (SF-839555 ) and one from Oxfordshire (BUC-7E5EA8).
This is part of a silver-gilt livery badge, which would have been worn by a high ranking member of a household of one of the main players in the battle of Bosworth. It appears to show an eagle with a snake in its mouth. Along with the Bosworth Boar and the lead shot scatter, it was one of the key objects found during the Bosworth Survey that helped us locate the Battlefield.
Since it was found, members of the survey team have been working with experts trying to identify it. We now believe that it is part of the livery of Arthur Plantagenet. As his name suggests he was linked to royalty, indeed he was the illegitimate son of a king, Edward IV. Edward was king before his brother Richard and was the father of the ‘princes in the tower’.
There is no record of Arthur being present at Bosworth, but he was of fighting age, being born between 1461 and 75. We know he survived and served in the court of his half-sister Elizabeth of York and became an Esquire of the King’s Bodyguard to his nephew Henry VIII, to whom he was a close companion. He died of a heart attack in 1540, two days after being released from the Tower, after being held (incorrectly) on suspicion of Treason over Calais, where he was born and had been Constable.
In 2001 one of the most important archaeological finds of the Late Iron Age in Britain was discovered near Hallaton, Leicestershire. The find became known as the Hallaton Treasure and was excavated by a group of dedicated amateur archaeologists, the Hallaton Fieldwork Group and professionals from University of Leicester Archaeological Services. Over 5000 Iron Age and Roman coins were found along with a silver gilt Roman cavalry helmet and parts of other helmets, silver objects and the remains of hundreds of pigs.
The site has been interpreted as a shrine of the local Corieltavi tribe who lived across the East Midlands in the Late Iron Age. The objects are seen as ritual deposits given to the gods, perhaps asking for protection during the turbulent period around the Roman conquest of Britain in AD 43.
The Hallaton Treasure is of national importance being the largest number of Iron Age coins ever found in Mainland Britain and excavated professionally. It also provided evidence of a previously unknown type of ritual site. The tantalising question of how a Roman helmet came to be buried on a British Iron Age site has intrigued experts and the public alike.
The Bosworth Boar illustrates perfectly that Treasure can have a value far above its age and metallic content.
The boar is the symbol of Richard III’s household. The fact that this livery badge is gilded silver suggests it would have been worn by a high ranking person, close to the King. This alone is very interesting, but the fact that it was recovered from the site identified as the marsh where Richard is said to have been cut down in battle means that this little piggy is very important indeed!
The Boar, affectionately known as ‘Bozzie’, would have been worn by someone fighting alongside the king, probably attempting to protect him. It helped us to confirm that we had indeed found the Battle of Bosworth Field and the very spot where the last king of England to die in battle actually fell.
In addition it is one of the very few archaeological objects that can be given a tight deposition date. We are certain that it was lost at some point on the afternoon on 22nd August 1485!
We are delighted that two of our most important Treasure cases have been chosen for the final top 20 Treasure cases, to be featured in the Sunday Telegraph. These have been selected from the many thousands of Treasure cases that have been discovered since the Treasure Act was implemented in September 1997.
Readers will be asked to vote for the ‘Nations favourite’ Treasure case in an on-line poll. Votes are open until 14th may, so please get voting!
Our entries are
The Hallaton Hoard -found in 2001, consisting of an Iron age coin hoard (5000+), Roman cavalry helmet and other rare finds, such as a silver bowl (unique), silver ingots and a wonderful tankard handle. The finds led to the discovery of a very rare Iron age religious site.
The Bosworth Boar – found in 2009, during the Bosworth battlefield survey, the boar is a silver gilt livery badge of Richard III’s household and would have been worn by someone very close to him. Its find spot helped us to identify where he fell in battle.
Given the impressive geophysical results and the possibility of buried archaeology, we decided we needed to have a look under the surface. I recruited the help of Dr Julia Farley (then working at Leicester University) who obtained funding from the Roman Society, Roman Research Trust and the Association for Roman Archaeology. This allowed us to undertake a trial excavation on site in the summer of 2013.
We were very pleased to find evidence for a stone built circular building just where we hoped it would be (it really is circular!). This unusual building form confirmed that we have a Roman temple precinct. Its location, half way between Mancetter and Leicester, is a convenient stopping point on the road (Fenn Lane), where troops could rest, get some food and drink and make an offering (perhaps even buy one on site?) to their god.
We haven’t found any solid evidence of brooch production on site yet, but a large scatter of silver droplets from the field may indicate some form of metalworking. Many of the horse and rider brooches have silvered borders and in some cases have applied silver wire around the enamel cells (see pic). We didn’t find any more brooches, but did find a conveniently placed late Roman coin, which confirmed the date of the structure.
There is much more to learn about this site and we hope we can do further fieldwork in the future. We are extremely grateful to the organisations who helped to fund the excavations and especially to the dedicated volunteers who recovered all this material and to all those who helped me identify and record it.