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Adorning the Living but Not the Dead: Understanding Ornaments in Britain c. 1400–1100 cal BC

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 December 2014

Ben Roberts
Affiliation:
1 Department of Prehistory and Europe, British Museum, Great Russell St, London WC1B 3DG

Extract

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate whether the presence of gold and bronze ornaments in Britain during the centuries c. 1400-1100 cal BC constitutes an ‘ornament horizon’ and to analyse the roles that these objects played in prehistoric communities. To achieve this, a comprehensive ornament database was compiled and the evidence for ornament production, forms, distribution, modes of adornment, and depositional practices was analysed. This revealed the existence of an earlier bronze ornament tradition concentrated in the coastal areas and along the major rivers of southern and eastern England and a later gold ornament tradition throughout Britain. The ornaments were designed to adorn the neck, wrist, and fingers and, with the exception of a quantity of elaborate bronze pins, are not thought to relate to clothing. These were high visibility objects that would have been widely recognised by the networks of communities participating in the intensive movement of objects, people and practices that occurred throughout northwest Europe and beyond. The ornaments were probably worn for substantial periods of an individual's life before being separated from their wearers. Though the ornaments were circulated, repaired, and probably recycled, there does not appear to have been a substantial delay in their deposition. The excavation of the ornaments in diverse and frequently elaborate arrangements such as in ditches and in settlements, on hills and in rivers, and accompanying cremation burials or other metal objects implies localised reworkings of the more widespread practices of structured deposition.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Prehistoric Society 2004

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