London’s largest Bronze Age hoard on show for first time

Discovered two years ago near the Thames Valley, London’s largest hoard of Bronze Age objects has gone on display for first the time. The intriguing exhibition at the Museum of London Docklands was originally set to open in March 2020 when the outbreak of Covid-19 forced the closure of museums worldwide.   

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery’ provides a glimpse into the mysterious lives of the people who owned the historically significant hoard, which has never before been shown in its entirety. Curator Kate Sumnall revealed “the Havering Hoard can tell us many stories about the people who lived and worked in London 3,000 years ago.” 

Archaeologists are still uncertain about the exact number of objects in the hoard, as some of the hollow axe heads are packed full of much smaller objects. There are at least 453 high status and elaborately decorated pieces, including wood-working tools, ornaments, jewellery, razors and weapons. 

Many of the objects also reflect the close trading links between continental Europe and settlements along the River Thames during the Bronze Age. Dating from 900-800 BC, a bracelet from modern day France was found alongside copper ingots possibly from the Alps. A pair of terret rings used to stop cart reins from tangling was identified for the first time in the UK as well.  

In 2018, archaeologists unearthed the Havering hoard from four separate pits at Rainham in East London. Harry Platt, a 23-year-old recently graduated archaeology student, hit the historic jackpot when he was the first to uncover the hoard.  

I was wrapping up for the weekend and I saw this patch of green on the edge of my section,” explained Platt, who was working on a six-week temporary contract for Archaeological Solutions at the time. “I thought it might be a stone or something but then it started to look very much like an axe. I literally called everyone over and we all stared at it. And then more patches of green began to emerge around it. It was mad.” 

After recovering from the initial shock, the team went on to discover the third largest hoard in the UK, weighing a whopping 45 kg in total. “Some archaeologists don’t have a discovery like that throughout their career. So it was career defining. It may never happen again. So yes, I celebrated,” Platt added.  

Speaking about the free exhibition, Sumnall remarked “it also reinforces the importance of the archaeological process to our understanding of history. By highlighting the work of those involved, from the archaeological unit to the researchers and specialists, we hope to invite visitors behind-the-scenes and shine a new light on significant work taking place that you may not ordinarily see.” 

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery’ opens from 11th September 2020 at the Museum of London Docklands. 

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