Universiteit Leiden

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Bronze Age Bling

In January 2015, during an excavation ahead of a road-building project in the west of the Netherlands, archaeologists from the Faculty of Archaeology at Leiden, ARCHOL BV and ADC Archeoprojects recovered an extraordinary set of Bronze Age artefacts.


The Bronze Age find is unique in the Netherlands in a number of ways. Firstly, the find-site was fully intact, allowing a highly accurate recording of the find and its context. Secondly, the specific configuration of objects has not previously been seen in the Netherlands; and, finally, some of the objects themselves are rather mysterious, having no known parallels in Dutch archaeology.

In the original context

Generally, such finds come to light as the result of agricultural activity, and tend to be ripped out of context. However, this particular find was recovered during a controlled archaeological exercise, and was recorded in detail in its original context. It was established that the bronze objects were deposited carefully and deliberately in a ditch on the perimeter of a Late Bronze Age settlement, and that all the objects were deposited in one single event. 

15 bronze artefacts

The combination of the finds, bronze artefacts together with a single flint sickle, is unique for the Netherlands, although the combination is not unknown in Scandinavia, in both the Late Bronze Age and the Early Iron Age periods. The metal deposit includes 15 bronze artefacts; three large brooches, (specifically cloak-fasteners, known locally as bril-fibulae), two arm-bands (or ankle-bands), a large needle, a series of rings, and two rectangular plates with looped eyelets. It is believed that these bronze objects would have been worn as ornamentation.

From different locations

Items in the group derive from different locations. The arm-bands were made either locally, or some distance further south. The brooches are thought to have been imported from Scandinavia. A comparison with finds, both locally and abroad, would suggest that both the brooches and the arm-bands date to the end of the Late Bronze Age, around 800 BC.

Other artefacts are more mysterious. The rectangular objects are thought by some researchers to be bead-spacers, worn with multi-threaded necklaces, while the significance of the ring-set is still being investigated.

No present-day parallels

The find is timely. Professor David Fontijn‚Äôs new project Economies of Destruction (see Facebook page of the same name) investigates the phenomenon of Bronze Age metal deposition, in which many thousands of objects were deliberately deposited in marshland, rivers and other waterlogged environments across extensive areas of north-west Europe. These deposits are particularly intriguing because we recognize no parallels in our own time for such behaviour. It is assumed that these objects had a particular value, but perhaps not in terms of the intrinsic value of the bronze itself, or of the craftsmanship, but in terms of their connection with those who wore them.

The artefacts can be viewed from 16 to 26 October in the  Huis van Hilde Archaeology Centre in Castricum.

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