Station: [222] Deposits of Bronze Objects

At the start of the Bronze Age, and at its end, it was usual for smaller and larger quantities of bronze objects to be buried in the ground. These bronze deposits or hoards are particularly fortunate for us, because they supply a wide range of objects made of bronze: jewellery and accessories, vessels, tools and weapons. Neither burial sites nor settlement pits have produced finds of a comparable range.  But where can these bronze deposits be found, and why were such precious objects consigned to the ground?  Were they hidden in times of danger, or were they an offering to the gods?

Bronze deposits have been found inside hilltop forts, concealed in stone niches, on mountainsides and valleys.  Bronze Age deposits have also been found in wells and bodies of water, making it then very difficult to recover them at that time.  Furthermore, we can observe some norms with regard to the composition of these objects.  Decorative items for women such as pins, brooches, rings for neck, arm and legs and spirals for arms and legs, and ornamental disks, occur as frequently as male goods such as axe-heads, sickles, weapons and harness for horses.  We also encounter food offerings inside pottery vessels and whole sets of bronze drinking vessels. Sometimes, these bronze objects were arranged in each other in a special way. By the end of the Bronze Age, objects were being smashed or flattened, making it impossible to use them again.

Clearly, these bronze objects were supposed to remain in the ground.  They were there to assist communication with gods, spirits and ancestors.  These sacrificial offerings were probably presented as part of a communal ceremony, in order to enhance established norms. The individual involved would lose his or her wealth, but attain a higher social status.  These depositions of bronze goods were closely linked to the funerary rites of the Bronze Age. By that time, it was not only the select few who were being buried; all the deceased were now being buried and cremations had replaced inhumation graves.