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Massive bronze armlets


Weight: 1604.000 g
Diameter: 11.200 cm (internal)
Diameter: 11.200 cm (internal)

Bequeathed by Oscar Raphael

P&EE 1946 4-2 1-2

Room 50: Britain and Europe

    Massive bronze armlets

    Iron Age or Roman, 1st-2nd century AD
    Found at Castle Newe, Strathdon, Aberdeenshire, Scotland

    Worn on the arms of living people or the statues of gods?

    This is a pair of massive objects which a person would have worn on their upper arms. Each weighs over 1.5 kg, a heavy weight to have on each arm. Because they are so heavy some archaeologists have suggested that they could not have been worn by people, but instead might have been made to be worn by a wooden statue of a god or ancestor. However, no statues that could wear such armlets are known. Despite the heavy weight, it is possible that women or men did wear these armlets; they would have needed biceps measuring around 32 centimetres. This is not an exceptional size, although they would have moved their arms in a very distinctive manner.

    Armlets of this type are almost only found in north-eastern Scotland: other examples include a pair buried at Pitkelloney Farm in Perthshire. They were made at a time when England, Wales and southern Scotland were under Roman rule, although northern Scotland and Ireland remained free from Roman control.

    The armlets were found in 1854 over the entrance to a souterrain (a covered stone-lined cellar) belonging to a settlement. Were they accidentally lost by people living on the settlement, hidden for safe-keeping or placed there as a ritual offering?

    M. MacGregor, Early Celtic Art in North Brit (Leicester University Press, 1976)