Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Bronze Age Beauty

Today's artefact is all about the dainty....

You may well be wondering what on Earth I am showing you...well it is a beautiful faience bead, hailing from a Bronze Age settlement in Shaugh Moor, Dartmoor and currently held within Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery.  This tiny bead is only 0.5cm long and is one of a number found at the site.  It is made of a large amount of tin, a common material for the area and one that seems to have been important throughout it's human occupation.  It was well known in the Roman World and is thought to be a commodity traded indirectly with Rome for centuries before they made contact.  Plymouth Museum make many comments about this tiny artefact, the abundance of tin suggests to them that it was an item of status, tin was important so to use is as decoration showed wealth and with it a presumed power.  I am not sure how I feel about wealth and power tales, however, there is no denying the skill of the metalworker or the taste of the owner!  Another area that they draw attention to is the potential for this bead to have held a spiritual power, presenting tin with a 'magical' quality.  Its' transformation from a dull black material to that of shiny silver is a feature we assume the Bronze Age peoples were unable to explain through science.  Therefore a sense of awe is assumed.  Whether or not this was the case I do not know, I do however, feel it is a nice thought.  To give this little bead such significance means that to someone in Bronze Age Shaugh Moor it meant the world.  Much like jewellery does in the modern world, it provided the owner with something, maybe it was comfort, a reminder of a loved one, joy or connection will forever be a mystery but it would certainly have meant something.  It is easy to forget ownership and emotional connection when studying artefacts as all to often all we can do is imagine the person who may have owned it, we have no link to them other than the artefact in our hands.  These artefacts still provide and emotion to us whether it's the wow factor, a sense of wonder or horror, they trigger a reaction.  This should always be remembered when we utilise and study artefacts such as this bead, the people of the past should not be omitted from our archaeological accounts.

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