West Berkshire Council

Hoards and Treasure to be found at West Berkshire Museum

Brought together for the first time at West Berkshire Museum are 13 hoards from around West Berkshire.

Bronze age artefacts

Issued on: 07 February 2018.

The hoards range in date from the Bronze Age (over 4000 years ago) to the late 18th century, and contain all sorts of objects, not just coins. Visitors may be surprised to learn that a hoard can officially consist of as few as two items, as long as they meet certain criteria.

Together with the excitement around finding a hoard, these objects are fascinating because they hold so many secrets and stories that we can only guess at today.  Some smaller hoards may simply have been items lost by a traveller, others that were found with a container may have been deliberately buried for safekeeping. New thinking on the reasons for these objects being intentionally buried is also presented: were the Bronze Age tools a hoard of metal buried by a metal smith for safekeeping or were they intentionally damaged and buried as offerings to a god? 

There is also new debate around the burial of some of the larger Roman hoards which questions our traditional view of these deposits.  It has been suggested that these larger deposits are possibly a community adding their coins to a communal offering or collection.  Roman coins are the most commonly found in West Berkshire, with a total of six Roman hoards in the museum collection.  As with much of history, there are more questions than answers, but this exhibition has enabled the museum to show items in its collection that have not been displayed together before.

Also on display are Treasure items that have been found locally, some of them as recently as last year. Treasure items and other finds are reported through the national Portable Antiquities Scheme which is greatly expanding our understanding of the past.  Anni Byard, the Finds Liaison Officer for this scheme in our area, provided helpful background information on the legal definition of treasure and the importance of recording findspots and artefact details on the Portable Antiquities Scheme's (PAS) database . People can search the PAS website to look at beautiful photographs of the objects found in their area, and the database has provided the basis of hundreds of research projects.  

The exhibition has been presented as though the visitor is looking underground, peeking at the different hoards deep within the soil layers. 

Ruth Howard, Curator at West Berkshire Museum said, 'It was very exciting developing this exhibition; thinking about the people who lived in this area hundreds of years ago and imagining why they buried what we think of today as 'Treasure' is what makes these objects so compelling.'

The exhibition opened this month and will run throughout 2018.

For more information about exhibitions and opening times visit the West Berkshire Museum webpages.