Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Backworth Treasure. Possibly. (c.NZ306722)

The Backworth Treasure, or Hoard, amounts to a collection of gold and silver objects found in 1812 – supposedly in a field near Backworth. As you can see, there’s a lovely silver pan, three spoons, a couple of brooches and several items of jewellery. There is also a single coin.

The hoard is something of a mystery. Not for what it is or represents – it is almost certainly an offering to the mother-goddesses, buried in the 1st or 2nd century AD – but rather for its somewhat circuitous route to its current home in the vaults of the British Museum. According to the esteemed British historian and archaeologist, Francis J Haverfield, who was at his academic peak around a century ago, the collection of goodies was first sold by its unknown discoverer to a Newcastle silversmith. They were then “all, or nearly all” resold to a Mr J Brumell, a Newcastle collector, from whom most of the objects passed, eventually, into the care of the British Museum in 1850.

No one seems to quite know where the reference to Backworth came from, nor is there any solid evidence as to its exact date of discovery. Furthermore, various descriptions of the find and its contents vary, suggesting that the treasure has been somewhat ‘diluted’ over the years as it passed between dealers. There is a clear suggestion that an 18inch-long silver dish has disappeared, and that there was not one, but in excess of 280 Roman denarii coins rattling around inside the silver pan. Inscriptions found on the goods leave us in little doubt that they were buried as a dedication to pagan deities.

Anyway, despite its cloudy history, we’re happy to claim the tidy little treasure as one of our own.

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