2023 Author: Bryan Walter | [email protected]. Last modified: 2023-05-21 22:24
The Havering Treasure is the largest Bronze Age treasure in the history of Great Britain, and among the British treasures in general it is one of the three largest. It was found in 2018 and was planned to be presented to the public in the spring - but the pandemic and a general lockdown confused the plans of the London Docks Museum, which first postponed the opening of the exhibition until autumn, and then again suspended ticket sales for an indefinite period. In the meantime, the exposition is waiting for its visitors, about the treasure and how it was found, says Yuli Uletova, author of the project “Pompeii. Step by step".
Part of the Havering Treasure
Found by chance, the Havering Treasure is named simply for the place of discovery. And Havering is not some dense forest or field somewhere in the agricultural outback. This is an area (or as they are called - borough) in the northeast of Greater London. It would seem that in the capital of a European state there is already no place for living from construction projects. How can you find something very ancient there? But in fact, in terms of archeology, London is a very promising direction, no matter how strange it may sound.
For example, the construction of the European headquarters of the Bloomberg news agency in the historic center of London was accompanied by rescue archaeological excavations. Among the mass of interesting finds of amazing preservation, the wax tablets of the Roman period can be considered special. On one of them, experts, dating it 65-80 years, even read the address and name of the addressee: “Londinium. Mogontius ".
They are wooden planks covered with wax. The ancient Romans wrote on a soft wax surface with the pointed end of a stick called a stylo, smoothing out errors by flattening the other end. Often the stylus was pressed with such force that the text was printed on the board below it. These are the autographs that the soil of London has preserved for us. The "Londinium" plaque is also valuable because it is the oldest mention of London in the written tradition to date.
Tablet with the oldest mention of Londinium (London)
Londinium is the Roman name for the city, and finds from that era are not uncommon in the British capital. Many of them - and these are not only wooden plaques, but also leather products, for example - “lived” for more than two millennia thanks to the constantly moist soil, which does not allow air to pass through. The reason for this moisture is the Walbrook tributary of the Thames, which now flows underground.
The historical period of British history dates back to 43 AD - that is, from the beginning of the conquest of the islands by Rome. However, people lived here long before the arrival of the imperial legions. For example, in the famous Cheddar Gorge in Somerset, the remains of people of the Madeleine culture of the late Paleolithic era (about 15 thousand years ago) were found. From there comes the fully preserved skeleton of the famous Cheddar man of the Mesolithic period (10-9 thousand years ago) - a young man with dark skin and blue eyes, clearly killed by his contemporaries. This information was obtained during the study of DNA samples of a Man from Cheddar by specialists of the London Museum of Natural History.
Reconstruction of the appearance of the Cheddar Man. In the background in the showcase is its surviving skeleton
Notable British treasures
The British land is also rich in ancient treasures. The largest of these is Quairdell. These are almost 9 thousand items, mostly coins. It was found in 1840, and, according to experts, it was hidden at the end of the 10th century.
The Staffordshire treasure - weapons, dishes and jewelry of the Anglo-Saxons of the 7th century - belongs to an even earlier period of history. The Hoxno treasure discovered in 1992 turned out to be no less grandiose - about 15 thousand items, of which two hundred gold jewelry and silverware, the rest - coins of the Roman Empire. Someone very rich and caring packed individual things from the treasure into cloth, poured some things into bags and wooden boxes, and then put all these packages in an oak chest and hid them for a long one and a half thousand years. The Staffordshire Treasure is on display in two museums in Birmingham. The other two are in the British Museum.
And the Islehem Bronze Age hoard, discovered in 1959, was attributed to the culture of bell-shaped goblets. It contained 6,500 pieces of worked and unworked bronze, which were divided among several museums in Cambridgeshire. The British Museum houses another find from the same era, the Ringlemere Gold Cup.
Ringlemere Gold Cup
What was found in Havering
The Havering Treasure was discovered in 2018 when archaeologists were conducting rescue excavations in Reichem. The area was intended for gravel mining - but first you had to make sure that mining did not destroy anything important or valuable. Since the 1960s, this area had, as British experts officially formulate, "high archaeological potential." Aerial photography revealed traces of ancient settlements, fences, ditches.
Archaeologists worked as expected only on weekdays, and on weekends the excavation zone was closed. But on one Friday, expedition member Harry Platts discovered an ancient bronze ax in the ground, and the whole group had to continue working until dark until the treasure was completely removed. So as not to miss anything, the soil around the find was sifted by hand. And this made it possible to find, in addition to metal objects, fragments of ceramic dishes.
As soon as it became clear that the found pit with artifacts was not the only one, a different decision was made. The soil was excavated in whole blocks and sent to the laboratory, where further excavations were carried out. This made it possible to immediately stabilize the finds, as well as slowly and carefully record the location and condition of each of them.
One of the groups of objects related to the Havering hoard, in situ, that is, at the place of discovery
Despite the fact that the entire group of finds is called a treasure, objects were hidden in four pits in one ditch. And this is rather unusual, since most of the treasures are isolated accumulations of finds. Obviously, the different bookmarks were made at a small distance from each other on purpose.
In total, archaeologists have found 453 items with a total weight of 45 kilograms. Most of them are weapons: knives, daggers, swords, axes, spearheads. There were fewer hidden tools - for working wood and metal - and copper ingots. There are very few jewelry, including a bracelet, as well as a pair of special rings for horse harness, which prevent the reins from tangling. The British call these rings terret.
Horse Harness Bronze Ring
Various studies carried out during the restoration of the finds have added information about the treasure. It was dated 900-800 BC Only 77 items have survived in their entirety, the rest are completely damaged or partially damaged. The copper that makes up the ingots was mined in the Alps. Several axes are of continental origin, and the bracelet was made in northwestern France. Terrets are also associated with the same region - previously they were found only there.
Bronze Ax from the Havering Treasure
Obviously, at the beginning of the first millennium BC, the inhabitants of the British Isles had already established trade relations with the mainland. The islanders received from the continent not only the necessary raw materials, but also jewelry and weapons. At the same time, items could travel from Europe to the British Isles along with their owners.
The peculiarity of the concealment of the treasure and its contents posed the main question for the specialists - who and for what purpose hid it? On this score, scientists have several hypotheses.
Perhaps these things were a cult offering, that is, a vowed gift to a deity in the name of an oath, in fulfillment of a request or in gratitude for healing. Archaeologists call such offerings votive. Slightly less likely is the hypothesis that there was a warehouse of weapons, mostly used.
But there are also more prosaic explanations. They are associated with the production of bronze weapons and tools. For example, in these pits, a metalworker stored obsolete bronze items for their subsequent processing. Or he served a large territory and, in order not to carry too much heavy stuff, he was forced to make hiding places for raw materials, scrap metal and finished products.
A completely fantastic version puts the responsibility for the Havering Treasure on a certain insidious and influential local resident who, by artificially reducing the turnover of bronze items on the local market, tried to influence their market value.
So far, there is no unambiguous solution to this problem. Rhetorical question - why was it not found in the Bronze Age? - obviously has no answer at all.
However, some items in the treasure do not look like scrap at all. Tweezers, double-sided blade, bracelet fragments, pins and even ceramic beads. All these things are very popular in everyday life for personal care, and they functionally are not particularly inferior to iron objects in order to get rid of them just like that.
Reversible razor and tweezers
Tweezers and a razor are dated by experts 900 BC. The curator of the exhibition, Kate Sumnell, draws attention to this seemingly trifle, saying that already 3 thousand years ago, in the Bronze Age, men shaved their beards and, possibly, plucked out the hairs left after a razor.
Amber pin and weaving weights
The pin with a black "bead" is actually decorated with amber and was most likely intended for pinning clothes. But the baked clay beads are not an ornament at all, but sinkers for a loom. So, the treasure is still a cult one?
Whether it will be possible to uncover the secret of the Havering Treasure or not, no one will say in advance. But in any case, his discovery is new valuable information on the ancient history of the British Isles and rare finds for London archeology.