STONEHENGE ARTEFACTS

Bush Barrow is a site of the early British Bronze Age (ca. 2000 BC), at the western end of the Normanton Down Barrows cemetery. It is among the most important sites of the Stonehenge complex. It was excavated in 1808 by Sir Richard Colt Hoare and William Cunnington. The finds are displayed at Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes.

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The barrow contained a male skeleton with rich funerary goods, including a large 'lozenge'-shaped sheet of gold, a sheet gold belt plate, three bronze daggers, a bronze axe, a stone macehead and bronze rivets.

One bronze dagger has a hilt that was decorated by as many as 140,000 gold pins set to make a herringbone pattern.

This watercolor shows the dagger handle as excavated by William Cunnington in 1808.

3 stonehenge treasure wooden handle

"The handle of the wood belonging to this instrument, exceeds any thing we have yet seen, both in design and execution, and could not be surpassed (if indeed equalled) by the most able workman of modern times. By the annexed engraving, you will immediately recognize the British zigzag, or the modern Vandyke pattern, which was formed with a labour and exactness almost unaccountable, by thousands of gold rivets, smaller than the smallest pin. The head of the handle, though exhibiting no variety of pattern, was also formed by the same kind of studding. So very minute, indeed were these pins, that our labourers had thrown out thousands of them with their shovel, and scattered them in every direction before, by the necessary aid of a magnifying glass, we could discover what they were..."

The finds have been called "Britain's first Crown Jewels" belonging to the "king of Stonehenge".

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The design of the artifact known as the Bush Barrow Lozenge, and the smaller lozenge, has been shown to be based on a hexagon construction.

Detailed analysis of the design has shown both the shape and the decorative panels to have been created by repeating hexagons within a series of three concentric circles (each framing the series of smaller decorative panels).

The precision and accuracy displayed by the work demonstrates both a sophisticated tool kit and a sound knowledge of geometric form.

The myriad of minute fine gold wire pins set within the dagger handle (above) is further testimony to the sophisticated level of skill and expertise of contemporary Bronze Age artisans. A similar gold lozenge from Clandon Barrow, in Dorset, used a decagon in its design.

The barrow is one of the "associated sites" in the World Heritage Site covering Stonehenge, Avebury and Associated Sites (Cultural, ID 373, 1986).

 

THE STORY and THE MYSTERY

In the year 1808, Sir Richard Cott Hoare and William Cunnington conducted a significant archaeological excavation into a tumulus mound, situated only a short distance from the Stonehenge monument.

Sir richard colt  William cunnington

Workmen uncovered the remains of a tall, well built man lying in a fully extended position with his head pointing toward the south.

The grave also contained an assortment of valuable artefacts, including 3 fabricated from beaten gold, attesting to the individual's importance and station within his ancient society. Because of the presence of daggers and an axe, the deceased man was initially thought to have been a warrior.

The totality of the artefacts recovered, however, suggested that the individual had functioned in the capacity of a priest or architect at Stonehenge, as the items found with the skeleton gave an appearance more akin to ceremonial or calculation usage.

Some preliminary assessments related to wooden items in an advanced state of decay were later modified to support a scientific function rather than a combative one.

Below is an extract from Cunnington's account:

" On reaching the floor of the barrow, we discovered the skeleton of a stout and tall man lying from south to north: the extreme length of his thigh bone was 20 inches. About 18 inches south of the head we found several brass (i. e. bronze) rivets intermixed with wood and some thin bits of brass nearly decomposed. These articles covered a space of 12 inches or more; it is probable therefore that they were the mouldered remains of a shield. Near the right arm was a large dagger of brass and a spearhead of the same material, full 13 inches long, and the largest we have ever found. Immediately over the breast of the skeleton was a large plate of gold, in the form of a lozenge and measuring 7 inches by 6 inches. The even surface of this noble ornament is relieved by indented lines, checks and zigzags, forming the shape of the outline, and forming lozenge within lozenge, diminishing gradually towards the centre. We next discovered, on the right side of the skeleton, a very curious perforated stone, some wrought articles of bone, many small rings of the same material and another lozenge of gold. As this stone bears no marks of wear or attrition, I can hardly consider it to have been used as a domestic implement, and from the circumstances of it being composed of a mass of seaworms or little serpents, I think we may not be too fanciful in considering it an article of consequence."

Of these items Professor John North comments, 'Fragments of wood that the excavators had thought were the remains of a shield were now described as the remains of an alidade (a sighting rule) and wooden drawing board or plane table'.

There were three daggers with bronze blades and wooden handles. A series of gold pins had held the wooden handles to the blades. Other items included a bronze axe, as well as a mace with a circular pebble head and bone inlaid wooden handle.

The 3 gold artefacts consisted of two intricately patterned, flat, diamond shaped objects, overlaying a wooden base and another item thought to have been a belt buckle or buckle loop.

Of the two diamond or lozenge shaped artefacts, one is considerably smaller than the other and might have been a forehead ornament. Its larger counterpart, with a length of 7.28 inches and a breadth of 6.14 inches, was undoubtedly used as a breastplate ornament. This conclusion is supported by the fact that it was found on the breastbone of the skeleton. It also contains small, drilled or punched holes at its lengthwise ends, consistent with suspending the item from the neck by a cord and having it lie against the chest.

 

Were these dazzling artefacts at the King of Stonehenge's burial site Britain's first Crown Jewels?

They may not be studded with jewels and pearls, but these shining bronze artefacts may be Britain's first Crown Jewels.

Britain's greatest treasures from the mysterious golden Age of Stonehenge are to go on permanent display for the first time ever.

This will be the largest collection of Early Bronze Age gold ever put on public display.

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The new facility not only features treasures from the Age of Stonehenge, but also recreates some of the key places they were unearthed.

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Stonehenge period objects, including 30 pieces of gold treasure which have rarely been seen by the public before.

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They were unearthed by antiquarians and archaeologists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

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Axes and daggers on display in the new purpose-built galleries are identical to images of weapons carved into the giant stones of Stonehenge itself.

Amongst the ancient Stonehenge era treasures placed on permanent display for the first time, are  a beautifully decorated gold lozenge, and a magnificent bronze dagger with a gold-covered haff.  There ia also a golden sheath for a dagger, a ceremonial axe, gold beads, necklaces, ear-rings, pendants  and other items of gold jewellery, a unique jet disc (used to fasten a luxury garment), rare traces of ancient textiles and two of the finest prehistoric flint arrow head ever found.

David Dawson, Director of the Wiltshire Museum, said: 'Stonehenge is an iconic monument – but this is the first time that such a wide range of high status objects from the spectacular burials of the people who used it, has ever been put on permanent display.'

The jewels are estimated to be as old as the supposedly man made phenomenon of Stonehenge near Salisbury, Wiltshire.

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Many of the items may well have been worn by Bronze Age priests and chieftains as they worshipped inside Stonehenge itself.

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Amongst the ancient Stonehenge era treasures placed on permanent display for the first time, are a beautifully decorated gold lozenge.

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A magnificent bronze dagger with a gold-covered haft, a golden sheath for a dagger, a ceremonial axe, gold beads, necklaces, ear-rings, pendants and other items of gold jewellery.

The most precious gold, jet and amber objects from the period are being permanently brought together to tell the story of the people who lived in and around the Stonehenge landscape when the monument was one of the great religious focal points of western Europe.

'Many of the items may well have been worn by Bronze Age priests and chieftains as they worshipped inside Stonehenge itself,' said Mr Dawson.

Axes and daggers on display in the new purpose-built galleries are identical to images of weapons carved into the giant stones of Stonehenge itself.

'We believe the new displays are a major step forward in helping to explain the extraordinary sophistication of the remarkable people who used the world’s most famous prehistoric monument.'

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Until now it's never been possible to give the public permanent access to them.

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Spectacular treasures from the Age of Stonehenge were unearthed by antiquarians and archaeologists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

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The most precious gold, jet and amber objects from the period are being permanently brought together.

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The Wiltshire Museum in Devizes will exhibit 500 Stonehenge period objects, including 30 pieces of gold treasure which have rarely been seen by the public before.

The new facility not only features treasures from the Age of Stonehenge, but also recreates some of the key places they were unearthed.

Archaeologists have recreated the famous Bush Barrow burial, where a Bronze Age chieftain was buried in regal splendour overlooking Stonehenge itself. 

The museum hopes that the new display will help attract substantial numbers of additional tourists to Devizes, generating jobs in the local community.

The new facility, consisting of four new galleries – form the centre-piece of the relaunched Wiltshire Museum.  The museum is run by the Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society, an independent charity founded 160 years ago. It now has 1,000 members.

The large specially-designed new high security and humidity-controlled exhibition facility, constructed inside the museum, cost £750,000 to build, with funding coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage, Wiltshire Council, the North Wessex Downs Area of Natural Beauty and other sources.

By Anna Edwards

Published: 12 October 2013.

 

Early sketch of Stonehenge found

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The oldest detailed drawing of Stonehenge, found in a 1440 manuscript, the Scala Mundi

They got the date wrong by some 3,000 years, but the oldest detailed drawing of Stonehenge, apparently based on first hand observation, has turned up in a 15th century manuscript.

The little sketch is a bird's eye view of the stones, and shows the great trilithons, the biggest stones in the monument, each made of two pillars capped with a third stone lintel, which stand in a horseshoe in the centre of the circle. Only three are now standing, but the drawing, found in Douai, northern France, suggests that in the 15th century four of the original five survived.

In the Scala Mundi, the Chronicle of the World, Merlin is given credit for building Stonehenge between 480 and 486, when the Latin text says he "not by force, but by art, brought and erected the giant's ring from Ireland". Modern science suggests that the stones went up from 2,500 BC, with the bluestone outer circle somehow transported from west Wales, and the double decker bus-size sarsen stones dragged 30 miles across Salisbury plain.

There are two earlier images of Stonehenge, one in the British Library and one in the Parker Library in Cambridge, but the Douai drawing is unique in attempting to show how the monument was built.

It correctly shows tenon joints piercing the lintel, a timber construction technique, although in fact the real Stonehenge tenons only go partly into the top stone.

Stonehenge is rare among prehistoric landscapes, because its sheer bulk meant it was never lost. An Anglo Saxon poet wondered about the origin of the stones and inspired some of the earliest photographs.

The Guardian November 2006.

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