London's largest ever Bronze Age treasure find to go on display in Canary Wharf after being discovered in Rainham
PUBLISHED: 10:00 21 October 2019
The largest Bronze Age archaeological find London has ever seen will go on display next year - and it was all discovered on a building site in Rainham.
The "momentous and extremely rare" group of artefacts, which date from between 800BC and 900BC, were discovered during preparatory works at a development site on September 21 2018.
The placement of hundreds of weapons carefully buried in four distinct groups close together suggests the site could have been a metal workers former vault or an armoury recycling bank or exchange, archaeologists believe.
The significant find of 453 bronze objects, the third largest ever discovered in the UK, will go on display for the first time as the centrepiece of a major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands, part of the Museum of London, in April 2020.
Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: "This extraordinary discovery adds immensely to our understanding of Bronze Age life.
"It also underlines the importance of planned assessment and excavation in archaeological hotspots when new development comes along.
"The opportunity to investigate here and ultimately unearth the remarkable hoards that have come to light was only possible because of the effective partnership between archaeologists and developers.
"The finds have already taught us a great deal about this distant age, and on-going analysis and public outreach means that many more people will benefit from this window into the past thanks to this example of successful development-led archaeology."
The discovery also included copper ingots and smelting remnants, as well as rarer finds including a number of decorated rings, a bracelet and the survival of a wooden dowel.
All four hoards were examined by Dr Sophia Adams, an expert in Late Bronze Age artefacts who works for the University of Glasgow.
In her formal reports to the coroner, she determined the finds met the statutory requirements to be declared treasure.
East London's assistant coroner Ian Wade officially declared the find, known as the Havering Hoard, treasure at an inquest in July this year.
The court heard that the land is being developed and, as part of planning permission requirements, archaeologists were brought in to investigate a "crop circle" on the site.
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Assistant coroner Ian Wade refused to reveal the exact location of the find during that hearing, to "protect" the land from treasure hunters .
"This is indeed an honour," he told the court that day.
"All these items were found in an area broadly known as Rainham, an as they are treasure someone has rightly given them the rather catchy title of The Havering Hoard."
After the treasure inquest was completed, the hoard was handed over to the United Kingdom's Treasure Valuation Committee.
The committee is an independent panel of experts whose role is to recommend a valuation equivalent to what a find might achieve if it were to go to auction.
The Museum of London - which was the only museum present at July's inquest, to which it sent two representatives - will then acquire the items by paying what the find was worth.
No details on the price agreed by the committee have yet been released.
Roy Stephenson, from the Museum of London, said: "We're thrilled to be able to display this momentous discovery for the first time as the centrepiece of a major exhibition.
"It's incredibly rare to have uncovered four separate hoards of such size on one site.
"This discovery is also of huge importance due to the deliberate placement of each deposit and raises questions as to why this treasure was buried in this way and why it was never recovered.
"These questions and more will be investigated in the exhibition."
The area around Rainham and South Hornchurch is believed to have been well inhabited around 3,000 years ago.
In the 1990s, a large number of Bronze Age artefacts were discovered, dated to between 1,000 and 800BC.
Many of those items were found surrounded by pottery fragments, leading experts to believe these artefacts were purposely buried inside ceramic containers.