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30 November 2019
Analysis of Bush Barrow dagger's studs

Located close to Stonehenge, Bush Barrow is Britain's richest Bronze Age burial. The most remarkable discovery was a gold-studded dagger pommel, set with thousands of microscopic gold studs thinner than a human hair. Dr Chris Standish of Southampton University has identified the most likely source of the gold used to make this amazing object.
     Dr Standish has developed a metallurgical technique that analyses the proportions of different isotopes within the lead impurities in the gold. These proportions were compared with information about gold from known sources in Ireland, Cornwall, Wales and Brittany. A single gold stud was used for the analysis.
     The blade of the Bush Barrow dagger is of a type found in both Brittany and Britain and gold-studded pommels have been found on both sides of the English Channel. Some archaeologists have thought that the dagger pommel was made in Brittany but the craft skills needed to make it are higher than used in either Britain or France at this early date. The dagger was buried with a Chieftain who died in about 1950 BCE at a time when Stonehenge was at the centre of an internationally important ceremonial landscape.
     Analysis undertaken 30 years ago of gold objects from burials in the Stonehenge landscape suggested that the gold used came from Ireland. Analysis by Dr Standish of gold objects found in Ireland has shown that many are made of gold from Cornwall and gold from Cornwall was also used in the famous Nebra Sky Disk found in Germany.

Edited from Wiltshire Museum (18 November 2019)

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