Festival of Archaeology 2014: Medieval rings, Bronze Age hoards and Iron Age discoveries

By Ben Miller | 16 July 2014

Jennifer Jackson, the Finds Liaison Officer for Kent, chooses three formidable archaeological discoveries

© Portable Antiquities Scheme
Iron Age coin die (late 2nd century BC)

“We had an Iron Age coin die which is only the third one ever found in the UK. The other two were found in Hampshire.

It’s quite an unassuming object. It doesn’t shout gold when you first see it; it’s not shiny. When we first looked at it, it took a minute to decide what it was.

It’s got this beautiful engraving of a horse on the bottom, used to stamp coins. It’s the first type of coins that you see in Britain – the big, gold, Gallo-Belgic coins.

It’s always been supposed that they’re made in France or Belgium and brought over, but we now have three of these in Britain, and none of them reported in France or Belgium.

So it begins to ask questions of what we understand about money and who is making the coins – are they being made here rather than being brought over? It’s fascinating – we could possibly rewrite what we know about coinage.

We’re talking about 150 BC, before the conquest of Gaul and that sort of thing.

There was a flourishing economy across the Channel, which had always been presumed to be where the coins were coming from. Finding a die here brings up the possibility that we were making the coins here.

It was found by a metal detectorist. We have 14 metal detecting clubs in Kent and Medway, so I visit each and every one of them four times a year.

The die has been acquired by the British Museum and is on display there.”

© Portable Antiquities Scheme
The Boughton Malherbe hoard (1150-600 BC)

"This is the third-largest Bronze Age hoard ever found in Britain. It was found in 2011 but it’s very recently been acquired and gone on display at Maidstone Museum – not all of it, because it’s 252 objects, but the highlights are on display there at the moment so people can go and see it.

Most of the objects are broken in some way. It’s got things like the moulds to make the axes, which are made of copper alloy – the same metal as the axes, but with a slightly different composition.

The hoard from Boughton Malherbe belongs to the carp's tongue complex, the terminal metalworking tradition of the final phase of the Atlantic Bronze Age© Portable Antiquities Scheme
It shows how ancient metal skills were so sophisticated. They could make moulds that would hold metal of a different temperature and mould it 2,500 years ago.

They weren’t messing around: they were highly efficient metal workers. You can see how they create three-part moulds for an axe, with a hole in the middle.

You can see where things have gone wrong in the casting and they’ve been thrown away and re-melted to start again. That sort of thing is fascinating because you can see the processes that they’re using.

Unfortunately the finder had already dug up quite a lot of it when we got there but he told us how it was quite a small hole for so many objects.

It had these ingots of metal, to be traded. They’re the size of dinner plates – very, very big, heavy objects. They were domed and capped over, and then all this metal was underneath.

It’s taken three years but it’s now in the museum. A lot of it was about raising the money to buy it.

Normally treasure is just one item, so processing this took a significant amount of time, actually working out what all the little bits were. There again, the Staffordshire Hoard will take 15 years to fully research."

A medieval finger ring

“We had a very beautiful finger ring, a treasure item found by a lady in a rock pool as she was walking along a beach minding her own business.

She picked up this medieval ring, which has come from France, on the beach at Folkestone. It’s very interesting – you start speculating about all these stories, wondering how this ring appeared on this beach.

I think Google is a wonderful thing if you start putting in ‘gold rings’ and things like that. It’s quite a large object as well. It doesn’t look like a modern thing, so I think she found the information about treasure on our pages.

The ring itself is…normal is the wrong word for it, but it’s what we’d expect for a medieval ring.

I like the story of it, just sitting in a rock pool. It’s got crustacean traces as well, where somebody’s made it its home.

The sun just hit it in the right direction and the lady saw it. It’s still going through the treasure process.”

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

This small, early Medieval gold pendant is in the shape of a three-dimensional animal head, decorated with granules and filigree© Portable Antiquities Scheme
Part of the coin die© Portable Antiquities Scheme
The die has been taken to the British Museum for evaluation© Portable Antiquities Scheme
More from Culture24's Festival of Archaeology coverage:

An Iron Age comb, medieval matrix, and Bronze Age vessel

Roman gold, sceptre heads and Saxon sites: Archaeologist reveals Lincolnshire's best finds

Festival of Archaeology: Julian Watters on pickaxes, brooches, dogs and Roman cups
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