Bronze Age hoard to go on show after 3,000 years and an extra year's delay

Curator Kate Sumnall unveils rare Bronze Age terret ring used to prevent the reins from tangling on horse-drawn carts 

Curator Kate Sumnall unveils rare Bronze Age terret ring used to prevent the reins from tangling on horse-drawn carts - Credit: David Parry/PA

It took 3,000 years before the Havering Hoard of prehistoric bronze weapons and tools were finally dug out of the ground and made ready to go on public display. 

But the pandemic lockdown stopped the Museum of London Docklands in its tracks staging an exhibition a year ago.

A treasure of Bronze Age axe-heads and artifacts in the Havering Hoard

A treasure of Bronze Age axe-heads, tools and artifacts in the Havering Hoard - Credit: Museum of London

Museum bosses were forced to concede that just another 12 months wouldn't make much difference after 30 centuries before the public could clap eyes on the unique collection unearthed at Rainham Marshes in 2018.

“We have been busy behind the scenes getting ready,” museum director Sharon Ament said. 

“Society has never been more aware of just how necessary culture is, after restrictions and closures, and how much museums matter. It’s fundamental and part of who we are.” 

Double-sided razor among Havering Hoard dug up at Rainham Marshes

Past its 'sell by' date? ...Double-sided razor among Havering Hoard dug up at Rainham Marshes - Credit: Museum of London


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The museum in Canary Wharf’s West India Quay, which holds the collection, is reopening on May 19 after lockdown restrictions are lifted.

The Havering Hoard is the largest Bronze Age collection ever discovered in Greater London - some 453 tools, weapons and other artifacts are to go on display with the mysteries, myths and realities surrounding their burial.  

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Weapons such as axe-heads, spearheads, sword fragments, daggers and knives were uncovered by archaeologists with other unusual objects dating between 900 and 800 BC. 

The discovery raises questions about the ancient Britons who buried them, with one theory that it may have been a dumping ground for obsolete bronze tools as more robust Iron Age technology emerged. 

How archaeologists found the Bronze Age hoard of weapons and tools on the dig at Rainham Marshes in September 2018.

How archaeologists found the Bronze Age hoard of weapons and tools on the dig at Rainham Marshes in September 2018. - Credit: Archaeological Solutions

The discovery, in what was once open woodland, marshland and hilltop fields along the banks of the Thames, began when aerial photography revealed cropmarks.

This led to excavations that showed up the well-preserved outline of a neatly-cut ditch from 3,000 years ago forming a square with a single entrance. Post-holes also indicated a large roundhouse.  

The experts then came across “a flash of green”, which is the colour of bronze that had been buried in the marshy soil for almost 30 centuries and had remained undisturbed until the dig by an Archaeological Solutions team in 2018. 

Digging of a similar kind in more recent times along the Thames has also led to the museum reopening its popular Mudlarks children’s gallery on May 21, with stories of the youngsters who hunted treasure on the muddy river foreshore. 

Public safety measures at the Museum of London Docklands in Canary Wharf include timed ticket slots, which are free online. 

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