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Bronze Age artefacts dug up in Shropshire are declared treasure

By Keri Trigg | Ellesmere | News | Published:

An ‘unprecedented’ number of Bronze Age artefacts dug up in an area of Shropshire have been declared treasure.

The gold lock rings were found encased in a lead ingot.

A total of 37 objects, grouped into five hoards, were confirmed to be treasure at a series of inquests at Shirehall yesterday.

Axes, spear heads and a razor were among the metal objects, which had been unearthed by hobbyist detectors 3,000 years after being buried in wetland. The location cannot be revealed in order to protect the site.

Peter Reavill, Shropshire’s finds liaison officer for the British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, told the inquests the scale of the discoveries was most likely evidence of a significant prehistoric settlement.

He said: “I deal with maybe one Bronze Age hoard every year or so. To have five cases like this is unprecedented.”

One of the most significant finds was that of two gold lock rings wrapped in a lead sheath.

The rings were found to be 80 to 82 per cent gold, and were described as “very fine examples of their kind,” by Dr Neil Wilkin from the British Museum, who compiled a report for the coroner.

What made them stand out, Mr Reavill explained, was the wrapping, as lead was very rarely found in its pure or near-pure state.

Mr Reavill said: “It is of huge significance and importance. The bit which isn’t gold or silver is the treasure.

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“We have no other example of this so we are dealing with something which is significant in its own right.”

Among the other hoards was a “nationally significant” socketed axe head dating between 950BC and 750BC, one of less than 30 similar objects ever found in the UK.

Three tools had been joined together before being buried, which Mr Reavill said was rare, as was the discovery of a cauldron handle.

Mr Reavill said: “This site has a huge amount of academic and archaeological potential.

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“It is one of the most important prehistoric sites in Shropshire, if not in Britain.

“It is almost unheard of, there are maybe only three or four sites in the country which have similar archaeological patterns.

“We are dealing with something very special, and it’s great that everyday people from Shropshire are finding these things and bringing them forward.”

Mr Ellery declared all items treasure under the terms of the Treasure Act 1996.

Two of the five hoards - a total of 23 objects - were discovered by Paul Murphy, from Ellesmere, while metal detecting with his wife Catherine. They are both members of their local club and the National Council for Metal Detecting.

Mrs Murphy was shocked to uncover part of a Bronze Age anvil on what was her first ever outing with a metal detector.

Mr Murphy said: “I have been metal detecting for upwards of 25 years, but it is just a hobby for me. I was only using a relatively cheap metal detector.

“The first hoard was discovered in August 2017 and the second was in November 2017.

“I dug over a turf and straight away I could see an axe. I knew instantly what it was. I carefully excavated it and notified Peter, the finds officer.

“They are not found very often, and it is good to hear the reports saying there could be more finds there.

“I do it for enjoyment so this is a bonus.

“It has taken a lot of research, studying the old maps, books and newspapers, but it is 99 per cent luck that you stumble upon something.”

It is not the first time Mr Murphy has discovered buried treasure, after a brooch he found near Whittington was declared treasure last year.

The treasure hoards will now be valued by a committee at the British Museum, with the resulting reward for each split between the finder and the landowner.

Shropshire Museums has expressed an interest in acquiring the objects.

Keri Trigg

By Keri Trigg
Reporter - @KeriTrigg_LDR

Local Democracy Reporter covering Shropshire.

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