Somerset County Museum hits the jackpot

  • 9 May 2007

The Art Fund has helped Somerset County Museum in Taunton to purchase the largest hoard of Bronze Age gold ever to be discovered in Somerset.

Named the ‘Priddy Hoard’ after the place where it was discovered, the glittering collection of gold jewellery was purchased for £38,000, with a £14, 250 contribution from The Art Fund. Additional funding came from the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund, the Headley Trust and the Friends of Somerset County Museum.

The Priddy Hoard was discovered in November 2005 at Priddy on the Mendip Hills. The jewellery came out of the ground as a large ball of tightly intertwined metal, but once prized apart it was revealed to be a beautiful collection of 17 bracelets and neck ornaments, known as torcs. The spectacular hoard is over 3,000 years old, dating from 1300-1100BC.

Gold was a highly prized metal in Bronze Age society, and it is exceptionally rare to find Bronze Age goldwork in Somerset and the wider South West. The Hoard is also hugely important because it includes two previously unknown types of object, never before recorded in Britain or further afield – the ‘doubled’ and ‘hooked’ bracelets of ribbon and bar form.

The pieces of jewellery in the hoard still have sharp edges, indicating that they were used very little before they were buried. This has led archaeologists to suppose that the hoard was some kind of offering to the gods, rather than being deposited in the ground for safe keeping. Mysteriously, it is also thought that the pieces of jewellery were intentionally bent out of shape before being buried in the ground, perhaps as a result of some kind of ritual damage. The reason for this may always remain uncertain.

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Somerset County Museum