Length: 23.500 cm (fully extended)
Bridle-bit from the Polden Hill hoard
Iron Age or Roman, AD 1-100
Polden Hill, Somerset, England
This bridle-bit is one of a matching pair used to harness two horses to a cart or a chariot. It was made by casting bronze in clay moulds using the lost wax technique. Each part of the bit was cast in position, already interlocked; the pieces were not made separately and then put together.
The horse's reins would be tied to each of the rings and the straight part of the bit went inside the horse's mouth. The reins would then pass through terret rings that were tied to the yoke of the chariot or cart.
The ends of the straight links are decorated with inlaid red glass and an engraved pattern. Horses in the Iron Age were of great importance and often more care and time was spent on making elaborately decorated metal parts of horse harnesses than on personal jewellery.
Many other fine pieces of horse harness were found in this hoard, including terrets and toggles. Brooches found with the hoard include two different Roman types dating to the period AD 50-120; they provide a terminus post quem of about AD 70 for the hoard's deposition: the hoard could not have been buried before this date.
S. James and V. Rigby, Britain and the Celtic Iron Ag (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)