Norfolk's glittering treasures unearthed

More than 1,400 years has done little to dull the glittering hoard of Norfolk's finest archaeological treasures that went on show yesterday.The gleaming collection of golden bracelets and decorative sword fittings and Bronze Age weapons is worth £52,500 and tops the list of finds in a county that yields 27,000 finds a year - 40pc of all archaeological discoveries in the UK.

More than 1,400 years has done little to dull the glittering hoard of Norfolk's finest archaeological treasures that went on show yesterday.

The gleaming collection of golden bracelets and decorative sword fittings and Bronze Age weapons is worth £52,500 and tops the list of finds in a county that yields 27,000 finds a year - 40pc of all archaeological discoveries in the UK.

The Bronze Age Foxley and Eaton II hoards and the 6th century Anglo-Saxon Shouldham Sword Pyramid were put on display at Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery.

The extremely rare gold Bronze Age bracelets of the Foxley Hoard form the largest such collection found in Norfolk, while the 145 pieces of Bronze Age metalwork of the Eaton Hoard make up the biggest hoard found in the county.

Apart from dazzling the eye the collection sheds vital clues on how the historic landscape made the county a hub for Bronze Age metalwork and how sophisticated trade links supplied scarce gold from as far afield as Ireland. The finds were bought with money from the Friends of the Norwich Museums and £19,200 of Art Fund grants, the UK's leading independent art charity.

Curator of archaeology at the Castle Museum, Tim Pestell, said the quality of the finds reflected the fact Norfolk was an historic treasure trove.

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He said: “I see more treasure items than any other curator in the UK other than the British Museum, and these finds are the cream of the crop.”

David Barrie, director of the Art Fund, said: “It's great news that these three important finds have been purchased by Norwich Castle Museum with our help, where the public will be able to share in the excitement.”

The Foxley Hoard was found in September 2005 during a metal detecting rally outside the village

near Reepham, the Eaton II Hoard in April 2005 during a landscaping project in village outside Norwich and the sword pyramid was found in Shouldham, near Downham Market.

Each find offers its own insight.

Gold was a highly prized and valuable metal in Bronze Age Britain and it is likely that the owner of the seven golden bracelets in the Foxley hoard was a man of great importance.

The Eaton II Hoard of 145 pieces of Bronze Age metalwork, including a huge range of socketed axes, spearheads, gouges, rapier fragments and a possible sword scabbard guard, is thought to have belonged to a metalworker and may have been destined to be melted down.

Sword pyramids are 6th and 7th-century decorative fittings to help keep the weapon sheathed, and the use of gold in the Shouldham find indicates the high social standing of the owner.

The Foxley and Eaton II hoards will be on display all week in the museum's rotunda and will go on permanent display later this year, while the Shouldham Sword Pyramid is now on permanent display in the Anglo Saxon gallery.