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The largest ever Bronze Age hoard to be discovered in London, the third largest of its kind in the UK, has been unearthed in Havering.
A total of 453 bronze objects dating from around 900 to 800BC have been uncovered during a planned archaeological investigation, with weapons including axe heads, spearheads, fragments of swords, daggers and knives found alongside some other unusual objects, which are rarely found in the UK.
This discovery is hugely significant as these objects were recovered from four separate individual and deliberately placed hoards within a large ancient enclosure ditch, whereas most hoards are discovered in isolation.
This significant find will go on display for the first time as the focal point of a major exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands in April 2020.
The site is within a known complex prehistoric landscape on the northern edge of the River Thames, and a square enclosure had been identified on aerial photographs since the 1960s. All the archaeological work was agreed with and closely monitored by Historic England, assisted by the Portable Antiquities Scheme.
Almost all the weapons appear to be partially broken or damaged, raising questions as to why these objects ended up being carefully buried in groups close together. The deliberate placement of these items may suggest a specialist metal worker operated in this area, and this large scale deposit of bronze may represent an accumulation of material akin to a vault, recycling bank or exchange.
Could this treasure have been a religious offering, were they hoping to recycle the metal, control access to the material, or was it merely a rejection of bronze tools that were becoming outdated with the emergence of iron technology?
Objects from the hoard and an in-depth look into these questions will be presented to the public for the first time next year at the Museum of London Docklands, whilst further conservation and analysis currently underway will reveal more insights into this incredible find.
This extraordinary discovery adds immensely to our understanding of Bronze Age life. It also underlines the importance of planned assessment and, when appropriate, 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. Duncan Wilson, Chief Executive of Historic England
Archaeological Solutions was commissioned to investigate and record any archaeological remains ahead of a large quarrying project. The work was a planning requirement of Havering Borough Council, on the recommendation of Historic England's Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service (GLAAS). Excavation followed phases of earlier fieldwork after GLAAS identified the site as having high archaeological potential.
We are grateful for the partnership working of the Museum of London, Archaeological Solutions, Ingrebourne Valley Ltd, and Havering Museum - set to display the hoard following the Museum of London Docklands exhibition.