Stonehenge 4000-Year-Old Gold Working Kit Identified

Stonehenge 4000-Year-Old Gold Working Kit Identified

Archaeologists found among the grave goods a 4000-year-old gold working kit from a bronze age burial near Stonehenge.

The kit was found among a group of burial artifacts on display at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, England, that were originally taken from the Upton Lovell G2a Bronze Age barrow in 1801.

The barrow is an earthen mound not far from Stonehenge where earlier excavations revealed the remains of two individuals buried with a sizable amount of grave goods, including perforated bone points that were purportedly used to form an intricate costume.

A team from the University of Leicester has reexamined the grave goods as part of the Leverhulme-funded “Beyond the Three Age System” study and found that the stone and copper-alloy objects are ancient gold processing machinery.

Ancient Stonehenge Working Kit

stonehenge goldsmith's toolkit
stonehenge ancient goldsmith’s toolkit

Dr. Christina Tsoraki from the University of Leicester examined the artefacts’ wear and found that many of them appeared to have gold deposits on their surfaces.

Dr. Chris Standish from the University of Southampton, an expert in Early Bronze Age gold works, was consulted to determine whether the traces were ancient or modern. He carried out the scan with an energy dispersive spectrometer and an electron microscope.

The results of their research, which were published in the journal Antiquity, reinforced the idea that a variety of different activities had been accomplished using the stone tools. The use of certain of them, such as hammers and anvils, as well as the sanding down of other materials, involved other tools. Five of the objects were also found to have gold remains, which may be identified by an elemental signature resembling that of the Bronze Age goldwork seen throughout the UK.

“Our research reveals how much more we can learn about the manufacture and use of ancient artefacts when we analyse them using cutting-edge contemporary technology,” stated Dr. Oliver Harris, the project’s coordinator from the University of Leicester. This shows the continued value of museum holdings and advances our knowledge of the highly complex processes employed to produce gold objects throughout the Bronze Age.

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