Two embossed gold armlets

Bronze Age 2100-1900 BC
From Lockington, Leicestershire, England

A hoard as a funerary offering?

These gold armlets were part of a remarkable Early Bronze Age hoard revealed in 1994 during the archaeological excavation of a burial site in advance of road construction. An archaeology student from Bradford University, Mark Allen, made the discovery. Two parts of two pots and a dagger were also found. The dagger is an early form characteristic of Brittany and is the first example to be found in Britain. The pottery is interesting as it appears that the two pots were already fragmentary and weathered when they were placed on top of the hoard.

The discovery of a hoard including precious metal during the course of an archaeological excavation is almost unprecedented. It means that we have precise information on its context. Although present within a burial complex, the hoard was buried in a pit without any skeletal remains and situated on the northern edge of a funerary enclosure. Its position suggests that it was placed very precisely, possibly to observe some funerary rite, but at the same time allowing the option of later retrieval, which would have been precluded by taboo had the objects been placed in a grave. It is possible that the use of old pots had some symbolic significance relating to the ancestors. Alternatively, they may have been intended as a decoy to deflect discovery of the finer objects by unauthorised people.

The embossed armlets illustrate the great skill that was being achieved in gold-working only a few centuries after the technology was first introduced to north-western Europe. Mastery of the technique of embossing was first accomplished in northern and central Britain, being applied to both sheet-bronze and sheet-gold ornaments, and spread out from there.

On the right-hand armlet, the encircling ribs swell at intervals to form lozenge bosses, which are thought to mimic contemporary strings of beads in jet and amber. The surviving gold bands were probably originally attached to an organic backing, such as leather, that has since decayed.

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Diameter: 8.760 cm (max.)
Diameter: 8.760 cm (max.)
Weight: 34.800 g
Weight: 34.800 g

Museum number

P&EE 1996 9-11 1-2


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