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hanging bowl

  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Copper alloy hanging bowl. Shallow bowl with rounded base, low belly, upright neck and out-turned rim. Handle mount of cast copper alloy in form of animal head (perhaps a cow or ox), with ring passing through. Rim decorated with a single wavy line in low relief, with two similar lines on its edge. The bowl was made by hand from a single piece of bronze and the metal is only 0.1 to 0.2 mm thick. It is so delicate that it had been broken and cracked when it was used in the Iron Age and clumsily repaired using solder. There is a break round the lower part of the body which has been patched. There is a similar patch in the centre of the bottom.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 25 BC - AD 100 (circa)
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 65 millimetres
    • Diameter: 191 millimetres (with handle)
    • Diameter: 179 millimetres (max)
    • Weight: 371 grammes
  • Curator's comments

    The bowl was found high on the north side of Crooked Moor to the south of Exmoor, on the back of a long, narrow, flat-topped ridge which is part of the Middle Culm formation extending over the greater part of mid-Devon. It was discovered whilst digging a drainage channel in the corner of a marshy field with a mechanical digger. It was crumbled and damaged by the digger, but was restored by conservators at the British Museum. The bowl was found in fine grey clay, under ten to twelve inches of peat, together with many pieces of timber of oak and alder, one of which was curved. There were also marks of an upright stake 8 to 10 cm thick. Originally the bowl lay on the northern edge of a shallow pool and was probably a votive deposit.

    It is unclear what the bowl was used for. The shape of its lip would make it very difficult to drink from or to pour from without spilling. It could have been used to eat food from, or for washing hands, or used at a religious ceremony. Some time after it had been made and repaired it was deliberately placed in what was then a small spring or a marsh on the hill. It was probably placed there as a religious offering.

    The bowl is very similar to one found on Higher Youlton Farm near Warbstow in north Cornwall (now in the Truro Museum.). This bowl lay in black peaty soil 4.5m from a tributary of the River Ottery, 0.7m below the surface. The two bowls are almost identical in shape, but the Youlton example is slightly larger and lathe marks are plainly visible as it is undamaged. The surface of the rim has two sets of plain, lathe-turned grooves. The exterior grooves have been nicked transversley to produce a broken line effect. The Youlton escutcheon differes being cast in two pieces and is thought to represent a stylised ram's head with protuberant eye-sockets and curled horns.

    Dating evidence comes from two related bowls in the Birdlip mirror burial, which can be dated from associated finds to AD 1-60.


  • Bibliography

    • Fox 1961 bibliographic details
    • Spratling 1972 389 bibliographic details
  • Location

    On display: G50/dc30

  • Exhibition history

    2005 14 Mar-30 Oct, Woodbridge, The National Trust-Sutton Hoo Exhibition Centre, Hanging Bowls

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Department

    Britain, Europe and Prehistory

  • Registration number



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Object reference number: BCB81890

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