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Until December 2013: Kent’s £1million Bronze Age gold treasures on show in Dover
A hoard of some of the rarest prehistoric gold ornaments ever found in Britain – priceless, and insured for £1million – is now on public display for the first time in many years.
Owned by the Kent Archaeological Society, the Bronze Age ‘torcs’ (bracelets and armbands), which are at least 90 per cent pure gold (equal to 20-24 carats), have been released for display at Dover Museum until December (2013).
During this time two events in the town will focus on Bronze Age (2100BC-750BC) and earlier periods of history and the world-famous Dover Bronze Age Boat, unearthed during road works in 1992, will be one of the museum’s main attractions.
Mystery surrounds the torcs’ provenance. Four of them were given to the KAS by one of its members, Edward Pretty, who bought them in 1861 from an unnamed vendor and understood that they had been found in a box in the River Medway at Ferry Crossing, Aylesford.
Pretty heard that the box was subsequently thrown back into the river. ‘It is much to be lamented that a relic was lost that might in itself have been scarcely inferior to its precious contents in interest, and possibly have contributed something to their history,’ said Pretty, writing in the society’s journal Archaeologia Cantiana.
Then, in about 1869, the KAS was given seven more Bronze Age gold torcs by an unknown donor. These too were said to have been found at Aylesford and were probably bought from antique dealers. Two of the objects fit neatly together to form one ornament.
‘The torcs are up to 3,000 years old,’ said KAS Hon Curator Dr Andrew Richardson. ‘It is unlikely they were found together. Sadly their provenance is lost and even the attribution to Aylesford isn’t certain.
‘The four torcs in the 1861 acquisition probably were found together, perhaps in the river as the story says, possibly as a result of dredging, but we cannot be sure’.
Recent research has found that the 1869 acquisition is a mixture of middle- and late-Bronze Age types and therefore unlikely to have been a single hoard. They were probably acquired by dealers from various sources before being given to the KAS.
‘The torcs are important because they are among a group of rare finds of Bronze Age ornaments from southern England’, added Andrew. ‘They are further evidence that communities in Kent had access to considerable wealth and supplies of gold in this period.
‘Our hoard has rarely been displayed before, certainly not during this century. The torcs are normally kept in a secure location that I’d rather not disclose!’
Said KAS president Ian Coulson: ‘This is an appropriate time to bring our torcs to light. Normally they are kept under lock-and-key. We are displaying them to support the BOAT 1550 BC project, which is focussed around cross-Channel connections during the Bronze Age. The project relies on grants and voluntary contributions and we have donated £7,500’.
Media contacts: Dr Andrew RichardsonAndrew.Richardson@canterburytrust.co.uk ; tel 01227 462062
Ian Coulson email@example.com ; tel 01233 813551
Major Publishing Event dedicated to the memory of Peter Drewett:
Archaeology and Landscape of South-East England to 1066 (eds Michael J Allen & David Rudling)
This is a new peer-reviewed book on archaeology of SE England, written by the recognised leading authorities in their field. It provides an overview and review of south-east England, allowing comparison with Sussex, Surrey and Kent (and the east Thames basin) which has rarely been achieved or attempted. It will also allow comparison within and between both the three counties, and the main topographic zones of Downs, Weald, Coastal Plain, River Valley and Thames Estuary.
The book will provide an informed narrative of an interpretation of the history of the south east and re-addresses, renews and re-evaluates the work and interpretations presented previously. It will be the new textbook for the South-East. As such we it hope provides a fitting tribute to the late Peter Drewett who inspired many in the current generation of archaeologists (professional and amateur) working in south-east England. Peter published a series of major excavations in Sussex and southern England 1974-82, and this book will be dedicated to Peter Drewett with great thanks, admiration and affection.