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We don’t know who buried the hatchet 3,000 years ago, so bronze hoard goes on show at Docklands in mystery

PUBLISHED: 17:43 11 September 2020 | UPDATED: 21:38 11 September 2020

Pile of Bronze Age axe heads in the Havering Hoard. Picture: Museum of London

Pile of Bronze Age axe heads in the Havering Hoard. Picture: Museum of London

Museum of London

A huge Bronze Age hoard of weapons and tools uncovered on marshland by the Thames has now gone on public show for the first time at Canary Wharf with a big fat question mark.

Bronze Age terret ring used to prevent reins tangling on horse-drawn carts 3,000 years ago. Picture: David Parry/PA WireBronze Age terret ring used to prevent reins tangling on horse-drawn carts 3,000 years ago. Picture: David Parry/PA Wire

The 453 objects dating back about 3,000 years had been kept under wraps for months because of the Pandemic lockdown.

But now the so-called Havering Hoard is on display at the Museum of London Docklands until next April.

It includes a ring used to prevent the reins tangling on horse carts, hatchets, swords, knives, shaving razors, a loom weight and a spindle whorl used in weaving.

Archaeologists digging up the Havering Hoard at Rainham Marshes in 2018. Picture: Archaeological SolutionsArchaeologists digging up the Havering Hoard at Rainham Marshes in 2018. Picture: Archaeological Solutions

The objects were dug up close to the Thames foreshore in 2018.

But why anyone would want to bury hundreds of useful bits and bobs in the marshes and then just forget about them is still a mystery 30 centuries on.

“This is a significant archaeological find that adds valuable new information into a fascinating moment of London’s past,” the museum’s archaeology curator Kate Sumnall said.

Digging up the Havering Hoard at Rainham Marshes, now on show in Docklands. Picture: Archaeological SolutionsDigging up the Havering Hoard at Rainham Marshes, now on show in Docklands. Picture: Archaeological Solutions

“The Bronze Age was a time of transition with a movement of people and adopting new technologies and ideas.”

The hoard of well-fashioned bronze implements paint a picture of life 2,700 years ago when all east London was just woodland and open countryside with scattered farm settlements.

Bronze Age Britain began around 4,500 years ago with migrants from the Continent bringing new metalwork skills that heralded the gradual end of the Neolithic Stone Age.

3,000-year-old Bronze Age swords in Museum of London's collection. Picture: Museum of London3,000-year-old Bronze Age swords in Museum of London's collection. Picture: Museum of London

These migrants are known to archaeologists as “the Beaker People” because of their signature bronze drinking mugs.

But what isn’t a mystery is how they fused copper with tin in the ‘high tech’ of the day to make a tough bronze alloy that fashioned smart tools, utensils and hatchets.

The Museum of London Docklands in Hertsmere Road at West India Quay, next to Canary Wharf, is open weekdays 11.30am-3.30pm and weekends 10am-6pm. It’s free entry, but time-booked ahead to comply with lockdown restrictions.


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