Hoarding seems embedded in the English psyche if for no reason that the habit is so persistent. Scientists have been re-visiting Anglo-Saxon hoards in England, and wondering why they dumped such valuable things.
Artefacts found in the Tattershall hoard in Lincolnshire included swords, ferrules and many spearheads Amanda Ruggeri told the BBC. Archaeologists are asking why those people buried so many valuable weapons that took considerable time to craft.
Mysterious Truths about Bronze Age Hoards
Our ancestors began stashing away metal objects around 3,500 years ago. There were 30 to 40 Bronze Age hoards a year at that time, excluding those in Wales and Scotland explains Neil Wilkin, curator of the British Museum’s British and European Bronze Age collections.
However in the previous Iron Age there were only around six a year. Then, around 2,700 years ago this practice mostly ceased. But, why did they do this and why did this suddenly stop? And why did they break the objects into pieces if they were valuable enough to keep? Were they putting them aside for a rainy day?
More Curious Evidence from the Isleham Hoard
The Cambridgeshire collection, if we can call it that contained over 6,500 objects from 3,300 years ago. There were also slugs of metal and metalworking debris. There is a possibility this was a ‘recycling depot’ where a smith sourced material for new work.
However, the same hoard included a large ceramic pot containing deliberately broken weapons. This confounds the recycling theory and asks why break your objects before storing them somewhere for safekeeping? Perhaps there is no single theory that fits all?
“It’s tempting, and there are probably some overarching things we can pull out, but I’m quite sure that in different regions and occasions we had different meanings,” Neil Wilkin from the British Museum suggests.
Changing Patterns in English Hoarding Down the Years
During the middle Bronze Age a habit developed of storing groups of ornaments in the ground. However, a few centuries later hoarding focused on tools and weapons. People also began to break their possessions at that time.
Some of the weapons from the Broadness hoard in the River Thames, Kent have notches suggesting they are battle-scarred. However, other damage appears deliberate just before someone carefully placed them in the water.
More Evidence of Careful, Deliberate Hoarding
Our English forefathers carefully separated gold and bronze deposits. They placed their bronze hoards lose to settlements or near rivers, whereas their gold stashes were remote from worked land or habitations.
Such deliberate effort suggests Bronze Age hoarding was more than creating refuse tips for future recycling. Indeed, archaeologists believe burying them was a thoughtful, organized activity.
Therefore, Bronze Age Hoarding Was a Ritual
A ritual acts out a system of beliefs. Rituals are common in societies, tribes, families, and individuals. This study hints that modern-day hoarders may also be following a set of beliefs. A belief the objects are valuable and will have a future purpose.
“It’s like today: why do people go to church? There is a whole host of reasons,” explains Adam Daubney from the Portable Antiquities Scheme. “Some people have no faith whatsoever but they do so out of tradition.
Others have an in-depth faith. Some go just for marriages, some go for deaths. We’re dealing with human beings and their mind-sets, and that’s never straightforward.”