Bronze Age Gold from Crawley

Press Release: 02/11/2007

Penannular gold ring

A new acquisition by Winchester City Council’s museums service takes us back 3000 years to the Late Bronze Age in Hampshire.

The object was discovered a couple of years ago at a metal detector rally in Crawley parish, north of Winchester, by Mr Neville Saunders. He reported it to the Finds Liaison Officer for Hampshire who was attending the rally to record discoveries for the Portable Antiquities Scheme database. The object was identified as a gold penannular ring, a piece of jewellery dating back to the Late Bronze Age, about 1150-750BC. As an item of gold, the object was reported as Treasure as required by the Treasure Act.

The ring is decorated in banding of yellow and paler gold. Its function remains a mystery, but it is likely that penannular rings were a kind of high status jewellery. None have yet been discovered in burials which might provide clues as to how they were worn. Perhaps they were earrings or were worn in the hair. The most attractive idea to date is that they were worn as nose-rings, with the gap pushed over the septum of the nose.  

Robin Iles, the museums officer now responsible for the curation of the object, said: “Wearing this object may have been quite painful, but there are similarities to nose-rings from ancient Central and South America, and the idea of our Bronze Age ancestors with rings through their noses is less strange when we compare it to the current fad for body-piercing.  Whatever its function, this strikingly beautiful object is evidence that metalworkers were highly skilled in using precious metals during the Bronze Age”.

Patricia Stallard, the City Council’s Portfolio holder for Culture, Heritage and Sport added:“The owner of this piece of jewellery would certainly have stood out in a crowd, and no doubt that was their intention. This is one of many examples of objects in the City Council’s collection that help us to consider past inhabitants of the Winchester district in a new light. The people of Crawley and beyond can view this interesting item by visiting the museums service’s online collection website.”

Click here to visit the Winchester Museums online collection.