Length: 10.000 cm
Gift of the Duke of Northumberland
Room 50: Britain and Europe
Bronze model of a horse's head
Iron Age AD 40-80
From Stanwick, Melsonby, North Yorkshire, England
'The Stanwick Horse Mask'
This is a small bronze model of a horse's head. It was found with many other metal objects buried as a ritual hoard just outside of the royal centre of Stanwick. The head is not solid, but made from a thin sheet of bronze. This doleful-looking horse appears to be flaring its right nostril.
The horse's head was made to be nailed or riveted to a wooden object. But because wood rots and is not usually preserved archaeologists were not sure what the wooden object might have been. However, close examination of the horse's head and the other metal objects in the hoard shows that the head was probably attached to a wooden bucket. This would have been of the same shape and size as the buckets found in Iron Age graves at Aylesford and Alkham in Kent. Such 'buckets' were not for carrying water. They were technically difficult to make and highly decorated. It is possible they were used to hold a drink - perhaps mead or beer.
R.L. Fitts, C. Haselgrove, P. Lowther and S. Willis, 'Melsonby revisited: survey and excavation 1992-95 at the site of discovery of the 'Stanwick' North Yorkshire hoard of 1843', Durham Archaeological Journal, 14-15 (1999), pp. 1-52
MacGregor, 'The Early Iron Age metalwork from Stanwick, N.R. Yorks.', Proceedings of the Prehistor-4, 28 (1962)
S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)