Woolly mammoth skeletons found in Shropshire to feature in new museum gallery

The British Museum is helping set up a major new tourist attraction in Shropshire showcasing the county's Bronze Age history.

Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery will be the home for the partnership
Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery will be the home for the partnership

The project, being set up with Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, will create the UK’s first pre-Roman British Museum Partnership Gallery, focussing on the national and international significance of Bronze Age Shropshire.

Shropshire has been home to a series of remarkable historic discoveries in recent years and the gallery, which will be launched in 2024, will provide a method to showcase the rich seam of artefacts uncovered in the county.

The announcement comes as the Shrewsbury museum is set to open a new exhibition showcasing one of the most significant British finds ever, a sun pendant, also known as a bulla, discovered in the Shropshire Marches in 2018.

The new gallery opening on Friday will see the re-organisation of the museum's exhibits, and will include a host of highlights dating from Bronze Age Britain, between 4,500 and 2,600 years ago.

They will include three well-preserved woolly mammoth skeletons discovered in a gravel pit near Condover in 1986.

Some of the items which will feature in the gallery

The gallery will also include items on long term loan from the British Museum, as well as high status Iron Age items such as the intricate Telford Torc, the Claverley Stater Hoard, an assortment of North Eastern and Western gold coins, as well as copper, bronze and gold tools, weapons and ornaments from as far back as 4,500 years ago.

Mysterious spoons dating from the Iron Age and found in Nesscliffe will also form part of the gallery.

The British Museum said the partnership recognises the "internationally significant historic landscape of Shropshire", and also highlights its "growing research potential".

Jill Cook, from the British Museum said: “It is fantastic to have the opportunity to work with colleagues at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery to create an innovative new gallery dedicated to the pre-Roman past of the Shropshire region.

"Being able to work with Shrewsbury and British Museum collections, data from the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and forensic evidence from recent excavations, it will be possible to explore the changing landscape, ecology and inhabitants over a period of some 10,000 years.

Some of the items which will feature in the gallery

"Starting from the end of the last Ice Age when woolly mammoths still roamed, this era encompassed big changes, including the introduction of farming about 8,000 years ago to the magic of metalworking 4,500 years ago.

"The Partnership Gallery will use Shropshire as the theatre in which the artefacts of human, cultural and ecological dramas will take the stage to show the rich and lively history of a region that flourished through its own natural resources and connections with Ireland, Britain and continental Europe.”

Shropshire Museums & Archives manager Fay Bailey said: “Establishing a partnership with the British Museum represents a significant moment, not only for Shropshire Museums but for the county of Shropshire.

"We are delighted to have the opportunity to work with the team at the British Museum and look forward to the development of an inspirational and inclusive display which deepens our collective understanding of this fascinating period of history.

"We are grateful for the support of the British Museum Trust and Arts Council England as we begin the first phase of our partnership."

Some of the items which will feature in the gallery

Redevelopment will allow the display of more of Shrewsbury Museum’s nationally significant geology and archaeology collections, much of which is currently in storage.

The collection comprises more than 1,000 prehistoric objects, including important finds such as the 10,000-year-old barbed spear point from Porth-y-Waen, Oswestry.

The spear point is made from antler by hunters who pre-date the first farmers in the region.

Maria Bojanowska, head of national programmes at the British Museum said: “As part of the partnership, British Museum experts will provide curatorial advice on the redisplay, with skills-sharing and learning opportunities for both organisations.

"Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery will also have access to the Museum’s extensive collection of Bronze Age objects for long-term loans to complement the incredible objects on display.”

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