- Museum number
Copper-alloy spoon. The handle section is decorated in relief. The spoon appears to have been cast and the main features of the ornament appear in negative on the back. The bowl is almond-shaped with a rounded rim, broad at the blunt end and tapering to the point. At one side is a hole apparently punched through, since the margins are depressed on the upper surface and there is a rough burr round the lower margin. Round the broad end of the bowl is a flange forming the handle. In the centre of this is a depression surrounded by a broad, rounded rim. The remainder of the flange is edged with a narrow, rounded rim. Each shoulder is decorated with a small circular recess, a lenticular boss and a round boss. A double loop is executed in fine relief and is joined to the lenticular boss while surrounding the depression and the circular boss.
Length: 114 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- This spoon was not used for eating or serving everyday food; it was probably used for special rituals or ceremonies. Spoons like these are usually found in pairs and one spoon always has a small hole on the right side. The other spoon does not have a hole, but is decorated with a cross which divides the bowl into four quarters. Examples of the type are known from across Britain, and also scattered finds in Ireland and Northern France.
Spratling (1972) suggested that a substance was poured through the hole in one spoon into the one incised with a cross. Andrew Fitzpatrick (1997, 2007) has built on this suggestion to argue that a liquid, perhaps water, blood or beer, might have been allowed to drip through the hole in one spoon onto the other spoon, as part of a particular form of divination practice. This is just one theory about how the spoons might have been used, Keith Parfitt (1995) suggests that the deposition of spoons in graves might suggest that they were personal possessions rather than ceremonial objects.
Examples of this type of Iron Age spoon in the British Museum’s collections include:
The pair from Crosby Ravensworth (1869,1211.1-2)
Single finds from London (1856,0701.1369; 1869,1213.1) and Andover (1933,0706.91)
And a possible fragmentary example from Stanwick in North Yorkshire (1847,0208.149)
For more information, see:
Barnwell, E. L., 1862, 'Bronze articles supposed to be spoons', Archaeologia Cambrensis 8, 208-19.
Craw, J.H. 1924. ‘On two bronze spoons from an early Iron Age grave near Burnmouth, Berwickshire’. Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, 58, pp.143-60. (a corpus of the 23 pairs of spoons known at that time)
Fitzpatrick, A.P. 1997. Who were the Druids? Weidenfeld & Nicholson.
Fitzpatrick, A.P. 2007. ‘Druids: Towards an Archaeology’. In: C. Gosden, H. Hamerow, P. de Jersey and G. Lock (eds) Communities and Connections: Essays in honour of Barry Cunliffe, pp.287-315. (see especially p.290-299)
Parfitt, K. 1995. Iron Age burials from Mill Hill, Deal. The British Museum Press. (Useful discussion and literature summary, including updates to Craw’s corpus. See pp. 105-107)
Rock, C. 1869. ‘Celtic Spoons’, The Archaeological Journal, 26, pp.35-51.
Spratling, M. 1972. Southern British Decorated Bronzes of the Late Pre-Roman Iron Age. Unpublished PhD Thesis (Institute of Archaeology, University of London). (See pp. 244-247)
Way, A. 1869. ‘Notices of certain Bronze Relics, assigned to the Late Celtic Period’, The Archaeological Journal, 26, pp.52-83. (Nineteenth century views on possible ritual functions of the spoons.)
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
2002 31 Oct-23 Jan 2023, Museum of London, 'London before London' LT Loan
1998 18 Apr-12 Jul, Japan, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Art, Celtic Art
- Britain, Europe and Prehistory
- Registration number