A Bronze Age Treasure Trove Is Uncovered At Museum Of London Docklands

Havering Hoard, Museum of London Docklands ★★★★☆

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 20 months ago

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A Bronze Age Treasure Trove Is Uncovered At Museum Of London Docklands Havering Hoard, Museum of London Docklands 4
A selection of objects from the hoard. Photo credit: Museum of London.

One of the UK's most important finds of Bronze Age artefacts was uncovered in 2018 in the borough of Havering — yes, the London borough that many Londoners hadn't even heard of was home to a subterranean 3,000 year old treasure trove.

Museum of London Docklands is hosting a free exhibition all about the 453 objects that make up the Havering Hoard and what it can tell us about Bronze Age London.

The reason for this stockpiling remains a mystery — were they discarded objects or buried for ritual purposes? Of the four theories put forward by the museum my favourite is that an enterprising individual buried them so he could control the supply of metal in his local area. Even with my very limited archaeological knowledge that seems unlikely, but I do like the idea of a Bronze Age man running an axe head racket in what would become East London.

Curator Kate Sumnall handles some of the objects from the hoard. © David Parry/PA Wire.

While the hoard is of historic significance it's not the most aesthetically interesting find — it really does look like a collection of hunks of metal. So it's great credit to the curators who have created an exhibition around it that is more engaging than the historic finds themselves, which if I had stumbled across in a field I'd have probably walked on by.

Items on display include a skull that bears a deep groove suggesting it has been struck by a sword, examples of how bronze was made and used, and a rather soothing video that looks over Rainham Marshes at sunrise, with all human influences digitally removed — a landscape that won't have changed that much since the Bronze Age.

An axe head on display in the exhibition. Image copyright Tabish Khan.

It's amazing to think this find was unearthed when a team was carrying out a task as routine as looking to extract gravel from the ground — and it had me wondering what other ancient relics we might be walking mere feet above as we go about our daily lives in London.

Visitors will enjoy speculating as to what this hoard was for and why whoever buried it never came back to claim it. Did he contract an illness, did the nearby river Thames flood suddenly and catch him out, or was he dramatically murdered by someone using an axe head similar to those he'd buried?

Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery is on at Museum of London Docklands until 18 April 2021. Entrance is free but tickets must be booked in advance.

Last Updated 11 September 2020