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Sunday, December 5, 2021

British Museum buys 3,000-year-old gold pendant discovered in Shropshire

A rare gold sun pendant (or bulla) dating to BCE 1000-800 discovered by a metal detectorist in Shropshire will go on display in Shrewsbury later this year, after being bought by the British Museum.

The Bronze Age gold bulla discovered in Shropshire. Photo: British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme
The Bronze Age gold bulla discovered in Shropshire. Photo: British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme

The bulla has been acquired by the British Museum for £250,000 with help from Art Fund and the American Friends of the British Museum. It will be lent to Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery, near the find site, for the first public display as part of British Museum’s National Programmes.

The pendant was discovered by a metal detectorist in Shropshire during May 2018 and had been cushioned by peaty soil for 3,000 years.

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The pendant was immediately reported to the local Finds Liaison Officer for Shropshire & Herefordshire, who notified the Coroner and brought it to the British Museum under the Treasure process. The Coroner found the bulla to be ‘Treasure and the independent Treasure Valuation Committee recommended a value of a quarter of a million pounds to the Secretary of State.

In light of the significance of the object, the British Museum was keen to acquire it and with support from Art Fund and the American Friends of the British Museum the pendant has now entered the collection.

Neil Wilkin, Bronze Age Curator at the British Museum, said:

“This is one of the most significant discoveries from this period – the Bronze Age or first age of metal – to be made in Britain for more than a century. The elegant form and brilliantly executed decoration of the sun pendant was accomplished with an ingenious skill. It tells us how important the sun – and its path through the sky during the course of the day and the year – was to people’s beliefs during this period. Its preservation is such that is difficult to believe that 3,000 years have passed between leaving its maker’s hand and being placed inside a museum case.”

Fay Bailey, Manager of Shropshire Museums, said:

“The Shropshire Marches Bulla is an unparalleled find of international significance. The discovery of this exceptional object and associated finds helps to deepen our understanding of Bronze Age Britain and confirms that Shropshire has an important story to tell. We are delighted to have the opportunity to establish a long-term partnership with colleagues from the British Museum whose commitment to our region will be invaluable as we redisplay our galleries and set prehistoric Shropshire in a wider, national context.”

Lezley Picton, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member responsible for culture and leisure, said:

“We’re thrilled that the Shropshire Marches Bulla will be returning to Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery for its first public display later this year to allow residents of Shropshire and the West Midlands region opportunity to view this stunning internationally important object.

“The long-term partnership demonstrates the commitment of the British Museum to our region and will no doubt help us raise the profile of Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery and the collections held by Shropshire Museums.”

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