Object of the Month – November 2023

The Museum’s ‘Object of the Month’ provides an opportunity to explore interesting and unusual objects from our stores. This month three new treasures which have been acquired for the museum’s archaeological collections:

Gold Ornament, Bronze Age, from High Easter

Dating from around 2,150 – 1,150 BC

The Bronze Age (2,500 – 800 BC) saw the introduction of copper; its alloy, bronze and also gold, which is a soft metal and easily worked. Gold was obtained by prospecting and panning. It occurs in the north and west of the British Isles, especially in Ireland and also in Scotland, Wales and Cornwall.

Gold was used to make a variety of ornaments, clothes fasteners and jewellery. Small items made from gold sheet are known from across the country, but this is the first recorded from Uttlesford district. We do not know how Bronze Age people wore or used these small gold objects – did they wear them in the hair, on their ears, noses or clothing?

The ribbon ornament has been decorated with four parallel grooves and is complete but has been bent. It joins the gold rings in case 4 and the two gold bracelets in the treasure case in this gallery, expanding the range of prehistoric gold jewellery from north-west Essex.

Silver Ingot, late Saxon / Viking, from Leaden Roding

Dating from around 850 – 1000 AD

Coins were not the only form of currency in late Saxon and Viking times; small bars or ingots of silver, jewellery and precious objects (often cut into smaller pieces) were used as well.

This is a typical silver ingot of the late 9th – 10th centuries, the period of Viking activity and settlement in this region. The ingot was first cast in an open mould, then it was hammered to flatten the surfaces and make its shape more regular. Later, someone tested the quality of the silver by nicking the edges with a sharp knife – this was a typical Viking practice.

The ingot weighs 4.45 grams. A Viking ounce weighed about 26 grams, so the ingot was probably intended to be one sixth of a Viking ounce. This was a common unit of weight at the time.

Gold Ring set with gemstone, Medieval, from Wimbish

Dating from 1150 – 1450 AD

This style of plain ring set with a small stone, was popular from the 12th to 15th centuries in medieval England. The little gemstone, which is polished, is purple and probably an amethyst. In ancient and medieval times, gemstones were thought to help protect the wearer or ward off diseases. Amethysts were believed to help keep drunkenness at bay.

Most finds of treasure are small objects which people wore or carried about their person. 700 to 800 years ago, someone must have been annoyed to have lost this ring, but now it can be seen and admired again.

Finder: Simon Rutter

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