Bronze Age gold bulla found in Shropshire
The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme launched its Annual Report for 2017 in London yesterday at an event attended by Rt Hon Michael Ellis MP, Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism and Dr Hartwig Fischer – director of the British Museum.
As part of this event this new exciting and nationally important artefact discovered in Shropshire was revealed to the public for the very first time.
The Shropshire Marches Bulla was discovered in May this year by a responsible metal detector user who wishes to remain anonymous.
The find was swiftly reported to the Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire – Peter Reavill and to HM Coroner for Shropshire – Mr John Ellery as potential treasure.
The finder of the bulla has said it is “the very best find of their detecting career” describing it as “simply mindblowing”.
The find is nationally important being one of the most significant pieces of Bronze Age gold metalwork discovered in the British Isles.
The artefact is known as a bulla (from the Latin for bubble) which is a hollow pendant suspended from a long-decorated gold tube. It is crescent in shape and wedged in profile. All surfaces are decorated with incised repeated geometric patterns. The gold plates are cut with opposing lines by a craftsman whose skill would have been almost unequalled in the period.
Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison officer, British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme, said:
“The design is such that the play of light over the surface is what you see most, changing with angle and light moving and shimmering, dancing and ever different. This would have been enhanced in the period where it would have been stunning when viewed by firelight or in bright sunlight.”
This form of pendant is amazingly rare. In fact, only one other direct parallel is known. That example was discovered in the 18th century whilst cutting a canal on the River Irwell, Manchester. It was sold in 1806 and its whereabouts is not known.
Six other broadly similar bullae are known from the northern part of the island of Ireland and are broadly dated to the late Bronze Age (1000 – 750 BC).
Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member for culture and lesiure, said:
“This find is wonderful for Shropshire and further demonstrates the rich and broad heritage we are fortunate to hold in the county.
“I’m looking forward to finding out more about the bulla at the inquest which is likely to be held in the New Year.”
Research led by Dr Neil Wilkin at the British Museum has shown that the Shropshire Marches bulla is most probably hollow and formed from gold sheet with at least 80% precious metal. Specialist investigations are still ongoing.
Mr Ellery, HM Coroner for Shropshire, will hold a Treasure inquest into the circumstance of the find once the full scientific analysis has been completed. The date for this inquest is not yet set.
A multi-agency research bid to investigate the archaeological landscape from which the bulla comes is currently being written by Historic England, Portable Antiquities Scheme, The British Museum and archaeological staff at Shropshire Council.
The bulla is currently undergoing analysis and study by specialists at the British Museum. It is not on public display and further information about the find will be released at inquest.
This is not the first time an artefact of historic importance has been found in Shropshire. In summer 2018 Mr Ellery held an inquest for a Roman Brooch which dates to the late 1st and early 2nd century (AD 80-140).
Other finds include the Tudor Coin Hoard now on display at Ludlow Museum, the Shropshire Hoard on display at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery and the South Shropshire Ring.
More information and images on the bulla can be found here:
(images may be reproduced and used with permission of British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme).
More information about PAS and Treasure can be found here:
For more information, please contact:
Peter Reavill – Finds Liaison Officer (Shropshire and Herefordshire)
Portable Antiquities Scheme
Tel: 01743 254748
Web: http://finds.org.uk / Twitter: PAS in the Marches @PeterReavill