Golden treasures from prehistoric Britain’s Stonehenge era, most of which have never previously been on public display, are today being unveiled at a small provincial museum.
The exhibition is the largest collection of early Bronze-Age gold ever put on public display in England.
It was impossible to exhibit most of the gold treasures before because of security concerns. Up until now the closest the public got to them was by seeing photographs.
Housed in a new, high-security and humidity-controlled series of galleries inside the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, 15 miles north of Stonehenge, the gold treasures and other objects are being used to reveal the remarkable cultural story behind the world famous prehistoric stone monument.
The new Stonehenge-era galleries will feature at least 500 Neolithic and Bronze-Age objects from Wiltshire, many of them from the once sacred landscape around the monument itself, including a beautifully decorated golden cloak fastener, a magnificent bronze dagger with a gold-covered hilt, a gold decoration from a dagger sheath, the golden tip of a ceremonial sceptre and gold necklaces, earrings and pendants – as well as other high- status precious objects made of jet, amber and stone.
“These and other spectacular treasures from the age of Stonehenge were unearthed by antiquarians and archaeologists in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, but until now it’s never been possible to give the public permanent access to them,” said the museum’s director, David Dawson.
“Stonehenge is an iconic monument – but this is the first time that such a wide range of high-status objects from the spectacular burials of the people who used it, has ever been put on permanent display”.
They will tell the story of the people who lived in and around the Stonehenge landscape when the monument was one of the great religious centres of Western Europe.
“Many of the items may well have been worn by Bronze-Age priests and chieftains as they worshipped inside Stonehenge,” said Mr Dawson. Axes and daggers on display in the new purpose-built galleries are identical to images of weapons carved into the giant stones of Stonehenge itself.
“We believe the new displays are a major step forward in helping to explain the extraordinary sophistication of the remarkable people who used the world’s most famous prehistoric monument,” said Mr Dawson.
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