Aspects of the ancient are sometimes elusive. In this exhibition we focus on the elements that made ancient societies work, from the production of pottery for trade and decoration, the development of the millitary and the first standardised coinage. We go as far back as the neolithic period, when humans first began functioning as a society, developing trade and the arts.
Neolithic Flint Tools
This flint axe head found near Ludgershall, Wiltshire has the polished edges characteristic of late Neolithic techniques. Many of our other examples are older, including a Mesolithic hand axe from Kenya. We use the items to explore the development of craft and technology in early human populations.
Bronze Age Votive Axehead
The Bronze Age saw the first mass use of metal tools in Britain, as well as the widespread adoption of farming. It began in about 2500 BC and was a busy time for Wiltshire. Thriving settlements were located in Wiltshire, and Stonehenge was the centre of an important pagan religion. This item was likely buried as an offering to the gods and it may even have been created for the purpose.
Iron Age 'La Tene' Brooch
In the 3rd Century BC a powerful cultural revolution took place, which spread throughout the peoples of Northern Europe. It seems to have begun with rich settlements on the banks of a Swiss lake, and recent evidence suggests that some of its roots lay in trade with the Mediterranean world. It has come to be called La Tene.
The Iron Age in Britain was largely defined by the withdrawal of settlements to defended hill forts. Archaeologist do not know for sure why this process occurred, but an influx of migrants from Belgium and Gaul may have made the security situation more precarious for many settlements, as raiding was endemic within these cultures. Hill forts have left us with a wealth of evidence to suggest that our native ancestors were not the savages of Roman propaganda, but cultured, educated and skilled craftsmen.
Battlefield Relics from the Teutoberg Forest battle (9 AD)
In AD 9 a three-legion strong Roman army was ambushed, routed and mostly destroyed near the Teutoberger forests in Germany, not far from modern Kalkreise. The Commander, Varus, had trusted a Romanized German to guide his force to the site of a rebellion in order to show force and crush it before it spread. His trust was misplaced. The rebellion was a fabrication. The guide, Arminius, led Varus and most of his men to their death in a carefully prepared ambush. In their haste to escape the carnage, men shed their kit. Among the items dropped were these two nails, presumably used in the construction of camps after the day's march. We are fortunate to be able to date these finds so precisely.
Amulet in shape of Phallus
Despite modern sensibilities, the Phallus was a prevelant symbol in most walks of Roman life. The symbolism can be seen repeated in many other ancient civilisations, including pre-columbian South American cultures. This lead example may have been worn around the neck of its owner, to encourage fertility.
Blue Glass dish fragments
Roman blue glass sherds, probably from a dish, Salisbury UK. These items probably date from the mid 1st Century AD when items of Roman glassware began to circulate in great numbers in Southern Britain. The tradition of using bold primary colours in glass making had largely been replaced by clearer glass wares by the 2nd Century AD. this glass is Dichroic, meaning that its colours change depending on the light. lit from the front it is dark blue, but lit from behind it appears light green. the Lycurgus cup in the British Museum is a famous example of this style.