WILT-F08AB0: Iron Age gold strip fragment

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UNIDENTIFIED OBJECT

Unique ID: WILT-F08AB0

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

An Iron Age strip fragment, the fragment is broadly rectangular in plan and 1.05mm thick. The front face has punched decoration (the concave recesses are visible on the reverse). The decoration consists of a stylised flower, the curved stem narrows towards the centre and thickens towards both tips (9.05mm in length). The flower head consists of overlapped broadly oval petals with a central circular motif which has two raised circular punches with central pellets. The tip of one petal is a raised broadly pointed oval with a central pellet, the other has a raised curved central punch. Located next to the petal is a central perforation. Along the opposite edge is an irregular break.

Dimensions: The fragment is 17.55mm in length, 8.2mm wide, 1.05mm thick and weighs 0.80g

Surface metal content: A gold content of 82-85%, a silver content of approximately 13-16%, the remainder being copper.

Discussion: The object superficially resembles a group of objects made of copper-alloy and dating to the first century AD with raised decoration created by hammering the metal over a former. These objects are known as 'casket ornament' as it is thought they served as decoration for wooden boxes or caskets which no longer survive (Megaw & Megaw 2001, 228). Raised decoration in copper-alloy is also known on earlier artefacts such as buckets dating to the mid-first century BC.

The gold strip from the Marlborough area is made of gold and its decoration is in a style which is earlier in date than the first century AD. It does not therefore belong to the 'casket ornament' group and has more affinities with earlier examples of raised decoration, however, no direct parallels can be found.

Since no direct parallels can be found, dating is dependent on the decoration. The raised concentric circles and flowing tendrils resemble the motifs and patterns found on some sword scabbards such as Deal and Little Wittenham and on some torcs terminals such as the so-called 'great torc' from Snettisham, Norfolk, the torc from Sedgeford, Norfolk, and torcs from the Ipswich, Suffolk hoard. Jope (2000, Pl. 127) has called this style of art 'Snettisham gold style'. Deal and Little Wittenham both belong to Stead's Group B - 'swords of medium length and scabbards with closed chape ends' which he dates from the second half of the third century to the second half of the second century (Stead 2006, 34). All of the torcs belong to a group of objects which date from c.125 - 60 BC.

In summary, no clear parallels can be found for this object. It superficially resembles casket ornament but it is earlier in date. The presence of a circular perforation at one end probably indicates that the strip was once secured to an organic object made of wood or leather, which no longer survives. Its decoration dates it to sometime between 250-50 BC, a time when gold objects are relatively scarce and gold is used to make a limited range of objects, particularly torcs, coins and more rarely, brooches.

Conclusion: The gold strip is over 300 years old and contains more than 10% precious metal. It therefore qualifies as Treasure under the stipulations of the Treasure Act 1996.

Author:

Richard Henry
Finds Liaison Officer
Salisbury Museum

Jody Joy
Curator of European Iron Age Collections
The British Museum

References

Jope, E. M. 2000. Early Celtic Art in the British Isles. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Megaw, R. and Megaw, V. 2001. Celtic art from its beginnings to the Book of Kells. London: Thames & Hudson.

Stead, I. M. 2006. British Iron Age Swords and Scabbards. London: British Museum Press.

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Acquired by Wiltshire Heritage Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2013T152

Chronology

Broad period: IRON AGE
Period from: IRON AGE
Period to: IRON AGE
Date from: Circa 250 BC
Date to: Circa 50 BC

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 17.55 mm
Width: 8.2 mm
Thickness: 1.05 mm
Weight: 0.8 g

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Richard Henry
Identified by: Mr Richard Henry
Secondary identifier: Mr Jody Joy

Other reference numbers

Other reference: WHM 1530
Treasure case number: 2013T152

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Manufacture method: Struck or hammered
Decoration style: Floral
Completeness: Fragment

Spatial metadata

Region: South West (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
District: Wiltshire (Unitary Authority)
To be known as: Marlborough

Spatial coordinates


Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 10 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Current location: Acquired by Wiltshire Heritage Museum

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: WILT
Created: Tuesday 12th March 2013
Updated: Wednesday 25th February 2015

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