A few of our favourite things
The Wickham Market Hoard
2000 years ago a community of people living near what was to become Wickham Market gathered together a vast amount of gold coins and buried them in the ground.
These people were Iceni and lived close to their tribal border. They may have been afraid of invasion from their powerful neighbours. The coins might have been buried for safe-keeping or as a war-chest to pay skilled warriors to defend them.
The coins were never recovered. Perhaps circumstances overtook this small community and they were never able to return to their precious deposit.
Or perhaps they were so troubled by something that they poured their gold into the earth as an eternal gift to the gods in the hope their prayers would be answered.
We may never understand why the coins were buried but we can perhaps appreciate the great emotion that must have driven these people to give up their most prized possessions. Whatever the reason it was clearly more precious to them than gold.
Coins in the Iron Age
Coins in the Iron Age were not used as we use them today. There were no shops. Instead people bartered and exchanged goods and produced their own food and clothing.
These coins were probably given as rewards to loyal warriors or traded as valuable objects in their own right. They were based on coins that had been circulating on the continent for many years but had a much more symbolic meaning for the people of Britain.
The design on the coins was individual to each tribe. By handing out these coins to warriors, tribal chieftains would be making a statement about their power and who was loyal to them. The horse was a particular symbol that we think stood for leadership and power.
Britain before the Romans
The Iron Age spanned the period between 800 BC and AD 43. The Romans called the people of our islands the Britons but that is not what they would have called themselves.
People would have thought of themselves as members of their tribe and not part of a united Britain. The distribution of different tribal coins is a useful way for archaeologists to understand the extent of any one tribe’s power and the wider political landscape at that time.
The Iceni tribal land covered what is now modern Norfolk, north Suffolk and parts of Cambridgeshire. Their neighbours the Trinovantes occupied what is now modern Essex and south Suffolk but were ruled by the Catuvellani whose tribal power base was in Hertfordshire.
There are five coins of the Corieltavi tribe in the hoard who were close neighbours of the Iceni on their northern borders in the area of modern day Lincolnshire. This could indicate a close trade relationship or political alliance between the two tribes.
This lantern dates from between 43 and 300 AD and is made of bronze. It is like a modern hurricane lamp and the naked flame would have been protected by a thin sheet of horn which had been scraped and shaped until it was see through and could be wrapped around the metal part of the lantern to act as the shield. The horn is an organic material that did not survive as it will have rotted in to the soil. The flame would have been produced by placing a wick into olive oil in a holder at the base of the lamp not unlike a tea light holder.
What is particularly amazing about the lantern is that the chains that it was suspended from still look and move like any modern chain and had not corroded into a metal lump.
We know that Suffolk became a hot spot for Roman villa and country estates in the 2nd century and perhaps this lantern was used to move between a villa and its outhouses after dark.
This lantern was found in the autumn of 2009 by Mr Danny Mills who was using a metal detector on land near Sudbury belonging to Mr and Mrs Miller. This discovery highlights the fact that not only are amazing objects from the past still waiting to be discovered under our feet but that everyone has a role in saving our past, not just museums and archaeologists.
This wooden model was found in a tomb at Sedment in Egypt. It is from the time of the 9th Dynasty and dates from between 2160-2025 BC.
It shows people making bread and beer, grinding corn and butchering an ox. It was placed in the tomb so that the dead person would have someone to magically provide food and drink for them in the afterlife.
Bread and beer were the main food and drink because of the wheat and barley that grew so well in the rich Nile Valley mud. Breakfast and dinner were the two main meals
Here’s what else might be on the menu:
• Onions, garlic, leeks, lettuce and cucumbers.
• Dates, figs, melons and grapes.
• Fish, eggs, beans and lentils.
• Duck, goose, pork, lamb, beef and gazelle.
Though the rich ate more meat, most people had a healthy diet.