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head-dress / diadem / crown

  • Object type

  • Museum number

    1990,0102.24

  • Description

    Copper alloy crown. Found in situ on skull. The crown is made up of a decorated bronze band worn round the head, with a plain bronze strip rivetted onto it which would have run over the top of the head. The decorated band was two raised cordons bordered by plain flanges, with the decoration of La Tène style patterns in the 15mm width between the cordons. It was made from two unequal lengths that overlap and attached with rivets. The decoration does not run smoothly from one length to the other, suggesting that it was executed before they were riveted together. When the crown was discovered, impressions of human hair were visible in the corrosion on the inner surface. This suggests that the metal was worn directly on the head and not padded or strengthened with leather.

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  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 250 BC - 150 BC (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Circumference: 595 millimetres
    • Width: 38 millimetres (decorated band)
    • Width: 25 millimetres (bronze strip over the head)
    • Thickness: 0.7 millimetres (metal strips)
    • Width: 167 millimetres (total)
    • Length: 213 millimetres (total)
    • Height: 68 millimetres (total)
    • Height: 83 millimetres (total, including metal mount)
    • Weight: 131.9 grammes
    • Weight: 236 grammes (including metal mount)
  • Curator's comments

    The crown has been damaged in the ground, doubtless when the burial was disturbed by a Roman gully. The plain strip suffered the most, a substantial piece is missing and the decorated strip lost some fragments of the flanges.
    Traces of mineralised fibres on the inside of the crown were examined by Caroline Cartwright, Department of Scientific Research, British Museum, and were identified as human hair so it seems the metal sat directly on the head.
    The best surviving parallel for the crown is the Romano-British crown or diadem from Hockwold-cum-Wilton (1956,1011.1). The Hockwold crown is found in a deposit that could have been part of a ritual storehouse. The crowns may be a type of religious regalia, however the deposition of the Deal crown in a grave suggests a personal possession, rather than being associated with a particular office where it would be needed for the next incumbent. The thin copper alloy strips of the crown would have given no protection in battle so it is unlikely it served as a piece of functional military equipment.This object was found in the burial of a man aged 30 to 35 years (for human remains see 1990,0102.28). The man was probably buried around 200 BC. This extended inhumation burial was part of a large Iron Age cemetery at Mill Hill, Deal, Kent (Parfitt 1995, p.18-20, grave 112).
    This bronze ‘crown’ or ‘head-dress’ (1990,0102.24), engraved with detailed La Tène style decoration, was the most unusual object in the grave. A wooden shield with bronze bindings and fittings (1990,0102.6-23), and an iron sword (1990,0102.1) with copper alloy scabbard (1990,0102.2-5) were also part of the burial assemblage. The shield was the same shape as some of the miniature shields from the Salisbury hoard (see 1998,0401.1-20).
    Other objects included bronze scabbard suspension rings (1990,0102.26-27) and a bronze brooch (1990,0102.25). The brooch was discovered near the man’s feet. Perhaps the brooch had been pinned to a cloak folded at his feet. All three of these bronze objects were decorated with applied coral studs. The grave goods were published by Stead (1995, 59-95). The sword is also published by Stead (2006, no.66) and Jope (2000, 278, pl.205:O).
    Much has been made of the inclusion of the head-dress in the grave. No other head-dresses from Iron Age Europe have been found in graves. It has been suggested that this object may indicate that the man was a priest or king. This ‘crown’ was perhaps a sign of leadership, but of what kind is unknown – spiritual, military or political. Unlike most modern leaders, his role may have covered all these areas.

    References:
    Jope, E.M. 2000. Early Celtic Art in the British Isles. Oxford University Press
    Parfitt, K. 1995. Iron Age Burials from Mill Hill, Deal. British Museum Press
    Stead, I.M. 1995. ‘The Metalwork’ in K. Parfitt (ed.) Iron Age Burials from Mill Hill, Deal. British Museum Press. p.59-111
    Stead, I. M. 2006. British Iron Age swords and scabbards. British Museum Press

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  • Bibliography

    • James & Rigby 1997 p.25, pl.27 bibliographic details
    • Parfitt 1995 p.58-95, no. 3 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G50/dc16

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited:
    2007 11 May-11 Sep, Maidstone, Maidstone Museum and Bentlif Art Gallery, Hidden Treasures of Kent.

  • Acquisition name

  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number

    1990,0102.24


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Object reference number: BCB8565

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