The idea of uncovering buried treasure is the stuff of dreams, but beyond this excitement lies stories of changing fortunes, economic upheaval and gifts to the gods. This touring exhibition brings together finds from the British Museum and Salisbury Museum to explore the reasons why hoards were buried. The Ulster Museum is the only venue in Ireland where it is on display.
With material ranging in date from the Neolithic (4000 BC) to more recent times, most of the objects on display are from Britain and will be new to visitors. Taking account of our local audience, the British Museum have also selected a number items from Irish hoards and we have highlighted hoard material from our own collections.
Irish material features prominently in the section on Bronze Age hoards. No party would be complete with buckets for holding drinks, musical instruments and a few weapons in case things get out of hand. No, this is not a description from Game of Thrones but just some of the contents of the Dowris hoard from County Offaly.
Dressing to impress in the Bronze Age is also reflected in the array of gold jewellery on display.
Iron Age material from Britain is much more varied than from Ireland and objects include spectacular gold torcs (neck-rings) from Snettisham and Ipswich. Similarly coins, often buried in huge quantities occur for the first time.
The Roman material deserves special mention. As the Romans never invaded Ireland our collections are poor in comparison to those across the water. Glimpses into the lives of the rich towards the end of Roman rule are reflected in the silver spoons and gold bracelets from the Hoxne hoard, Suffolk, which included over 15,000 coins.
On the topics of coins did you know that Roman soldiers carried purses, worn on the arm as in the example from Farndale, Yorkshire or that there were Roman money boxes!
As to why hoards were buried and not recovered, they may have been accidentally lost or stolen, discarded as worthless, saved for recycling, hidden for safekeeping in time of trouble, or offered up to the gods. Whatever the reason the careful study of these finds has revealed a wealth of information about the past.