The Battersea cauldron

Bronze Age / Iron Age, 800-700 BC
From the River Thames at Battersea, London, England

A fine example of the sheet-bronze worker's craft

In the middle of the Bronze Age, around the thirteenth century BC, sheet-bronze working was developed to new heights. This allowed the construction of much larger, complex objects such as shields and especially cauldrons. They involved a very high investment in terms of labour and craft skills, and would have been highly valued.

This splendid cauldron from Batttersea is a late example, dating to the transition to the Early Iron Age. It was constructed from seven sheets of bronze, each carefully shaped, curved and then rivetted together. The upper sheets were sharply out-turned and corrugated to provide extra strength; a tubular binding was added to the rim and two free-running ring handles were attached by rivetted straps.

Such vessels would have been used to cook meals for chieftain's retinues. Flesh hooks, like those from Little Thetford and Dunaverny, may have been used to scoop meat from the cauldron. These superbly crafted objects helped emphasise the social importance of feasting in the Late Bronze Age, constituting a display of social and political control.

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More information

Bibliography

E.T. Leeds, 'A bronze cauldron from the river Cherwell, Oxfordshire, with notes on cauldrons and other bronze vessels of allied types', Archaeologia-6, 30 (1930), pp. 1-36

C.F.C. Hawkes and M.A. Smith, 'On some buckets and cauldrons of the Bronze and Early Iron Ages', The Antiquaries Journal-10, 37 (1957), pp. 131-98

Dimensions

Height: 40.500 cm
Diameter: 56.000 cm

Museum number

P&EE 1861 3-9 1

BCB18271

Location

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