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6 December 2010
Bronze Age hoard in the lab

Earlier this year a rare Bronze Age hoard, buried within a pot in an Essex field (England), was excavated by archaeologists after being discovered by metal detectorists.
     In late September 2010, Laura McLean, Finds Liaison Officer (FLO) for the Portable Antiquities Scheme, was contacted by Mr Hill, Mr Mann and Mr Starr, three Essex based metal detectorists. They had discovered part of an in situ pottery vessel which appeared to be associated with metalwork; knowing that this was undoubtedly in its original undisturbed Bronze Age context, they made the decision to leave it in the ground and then contacted Laura to report what they had found so that it could be excavated archaeologically.
     The recovered metal work and ceramic vessel have been undergoing analysis in the lab at the Colchester & Ipswich Museum Resource Centre. Several of the complete axes found at the site contain soil in their sockets, and the contents have to be carefully removed in order to look for any metal work or organic matter that may have been deliberately stuffed into the socket opening. The position of the broken pieces of metalwork contained within the pot may also give an insight into the selection process of the person who deposited this hoard in the Late Bronze Age (c. 1000-800 BCE).
     The pot was x-rayed in its block-lifted condition, and from this could be clearly seen the outline of two socketed axes - one appeared to be complete, and the other showed the blade end only. The lower areas of the pot showed a high density of metalwork contained in that section.
     The external surface of the pot was cleaned and consolidated with reversible conservation adhesive. A support was then constructed and wrapped around the base and sides of the vessel to act as a reinforcement, thus enabling the removal of the metal contents. Two complete socketed axes and some fragments were removed, as well as part of an ingot and the tip of a socketed spear. An area of compacted metal work was then uncovered, but as these objects were so tightly packed in the vessel, it was disassembled along its fracture lines to complete the removal process of its contents.
     Currently, the material from the hoard are being examined, and a report is being compiled to present to the Essex Coroner's Office in early 2011.

Edited from Portable Antiquities Scheme (25 October, 5 November), Past Horizons (3 December 2010)

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