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6 December 2017
Unique Iron Age artefacts reveal prehistoric feasting

Eleven cauldrons, an ancient sword, fine ring-headed dress pins, an involuted brooch, and a cast copper alloy object known as a 'horn-cap' are among unprecedented Iron Age finds by University of Leicester archaeologists at a site in Glenfield Park, about 160 kilometres north-northwest of London - the most northerly discovery of such objects on mainland Britain and the only find of this type of cauldron in the East Midlands. Excavation director John Thomas, from the University of Leicester Archaeological Services, calls it "one of the more important discoveries of recent years."
     Believed to have been a ritual and ceremonial centre for a community that hosted large feasts, evidence suggests the site was used over a long period of time by multiple generations.
     Thomas says: "The quantity and quality of the finds far outshines most of the other contemporary assemblages from the area, and its composition is almost unparalleled. The cauldron assemblage in particular makes this a nationally important discovery," adding that, "Due to their large capacity it is thought that Iron Age cauldrons were reserved for special occasions and would have been important social objects, forming the centrepiece of major feasts, perhaps in association with large gatherings and events," adding that, "The importance of cauldrons as symbolic objects is reflected in their frequent appearance in early medieval Irish and Welsh literature, which has been drawn upon in studies of Iron Age society."
     The cauldrons are hemispherical copper alloy bowls with iron rims and upper bands with two iron ring handles attached, made in a variety of sizes, with rims ranging between 360mm and 560mm in diameter. They are rarely found in large numbers. Most appear to have been deliberately laid in a large circular enclosure ditch surrounding a building, suggesting they were buried to mark the cessation of activities associated with this part of the site. Other cauldrons were found buried across the site.
     Scans reveal exceptionally rare evidence for decoration from the period. One is a complete cauldron with has raised stem and leaf motifs close to the handles on the iron band. Another has been identified on a small copper alloy bowl fragment, which has a domed rivet or raised boss decoration.

Edited from Leicester Mercury, PhysORG (27 November 2017)

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