A belt hook from Bush Barrow - just one of the remarkable artefacts due to go on show at Wiltshire Heritage Museum. © David Bukach and Birmingham University
Members of the public are to be given a rare chance to see the richest and most important Bronze Age grave treasures ever discovered in the landscape surrounding Stonehenge.
To celebrate the bicentenary of their discovery, the Bush Barrow treasures excavated within sight of Stonehenge on Salisbury Plain in 1808, are to go on display at Wiltshire Heritage Museum in Devizes over the weekend of October 25 and 26.
It will be the first time the rare treasures have been seen by members of the public in more than 25 years and will offer visitors the chance to make connections about the landscape surrounding Stonehenge and find out more about one of the key people in the heritage site’s history and development.
The Bush Barrow warrior chief had been buried with prestigious weapons including an axe. © David Bukach and Birmingham University
“This is a unique opportunity to see not just the gold from Bush Barrow, the grave of a Bronze Age warrior buried within sight of Stonehenge, but the unique manuscripts and drawings that tell the vivid story of its discovery 200 years ago,” said David Dawson, Director of Wiltshire Heritage Museum.
“You can't understand Stonehenge if you don’t understand the landscape around it,” added David. “In terms of bullion, the value of the Bush Barrow treasure is tiny – but the cultural historical value is enormous. These were the symbols of authority of the man who must have been in charge of Stonehenge in his day.”
A large diamond shaped plaque was found resting on the man’s chest. © David Bukach and Birmingham University
The excavation on Normanton Down was found to contain, beside the burial of the adult male believed to be a Bronze Age warrior chief, an extraordinary grouping of Bronze Age finds. This included two diamond-shaped plaques (lozenges) and a belt hook of sheet gold, a bronze axe head and the remains of two daggers.
Replicas of the valuable items are permanently displayed at Wiltshire Heritage Museum, which also holds the originals, but the coming weekend will give visitors the rare chance to actually see the real thing and examine some new evidence about the finds and the man who was buried with them.
Over the last year or so, researchers led by archaeologists from Birmingham University, have been intensively studying finds from the excavation, which has led to a reinterpretation of the burial of this evidently important man.
By the body was a mace with a handle embellished with zig-zag mounts. © David Bukach and Birmingham University
The experts have concluded that a group of bronze rivets, originally believed to have been from a helmet, could possibly be from an early Bronze Age dagger, of a type dating to 200 years earlier than the other finds in the burial.
The new interpretation of the burial is that the body of this Bronze Age warrior or chief was crouched on his left-hand side, with three daggers laid out near his belt. He was buried also with a stone macehead, described by the excavator as an ‘insignia of dignity,' and a gold lozenge-shaped breastplate, which marks his importance.
An accompanying lecture presenting some of this new evidence at Devizes Town Hall on Sunday October 26 is currently sold out and staff at the museum are considering the option of adding a second one to meet demand.
In the meantime members of the public are invited to Wiltshire Heritage Museum, for a peek at one of the greatest treasures of our Bronze Age forbears and to find out more about the burial of this important man at Bush Barrow.