Ancient gold from 4,300-year-old woman's necklace and "exceptional" Neolithic houses go on show

By Ben Miller | 01 July 2014

A vast archaeological landscape at Horton has revealed a woman of importance, ancient gold and innovative Neolithic construction techniques

A photo of various pieces of ancient gold
Gold beads found at the Kingsmead Quarry in Berkshire© Wessex Archaeology
Some of the oldest gold ever discovered in Britain and a recreation of a 4,300-year-old woman, found buried during a decade of excavations at a quarry with Ice Age origins, have been put on show to the public for the first time by archaeologists.

Flint blades from 12,000 years ago and the strongest evidence of Neolithic housing in Britain – including two “exceptional” homes from the period and three thought to have had upper storeys – have been among the finds at Kingsmead Quarry, where the body of a woman, aged at least 35, was unearthed wearing a necklace made of gold, East Anglian lignite and Baltic gold. A selection of the artefacts are being displayed at the Windsor and Royal Borough Museum.

A photo of a light brown beaker vessel split into various sections along its cracks
A beaker vessel from the site© Wessex Archaeology
“Large areas of the site have been excavated, allowing us to view an entire landscape,” said Karen Nicholls, who has been part of a large team of archaeologists examining 28 hectares of the Berkshire site since 2003.

“Rivers have always been important for settlement, as a source of water and as a means of transport and communication.

“This site lies on a floodplain and the River Thames, which would have had more channels than today, may once have crossed the southern part of the site. This would help explain why people have used and occupied this area for so many years.

"Some of the finds recovered from the excavations are of national importance, including the remains of four Early Neolithic houses and a rare Beaker burial.”

Having been a Mesolithic camp site, farmers built a barrow where they ceremonially buried pottery and antler picks before clearing trees to create two Bronze Age farms.

The remains of fences, roundhouses, rubbish pits and waterholes for cattle are accompanied by unusual pins suggesting cross-continental trading, while the earlier barrow became the focus of a cemetery.

Continuing its agricultural use, Kingsmead was established as a large farm during the Roman era, attested to by axes, adzes, hammers and chisels.

Four leather shoes with hobnails and Samian bowl pottery were also found at the site, owned and run by a firm which extracts sand and gravel from the land. Its unexcavated areas are arable fields.

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A photo of an illustration of an Iron Age woman wearing a gold necklace
The woman is thought to have been an important figure within her community, giving her access to rare, exotic and prestigious items© Wessex Archaeology
A photo of a digital recreation of a mesolithic house in a forest with two people inside
Farming settlers may have built Horton's houses out of wattle and daub© Wessex Archaeology
An image of a digital illustration of an ancient woman lying fully clothed with a necklace
Archaeologists are planning further excavations at the site© Wessex Archaeology
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