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People (including me) call it ‘The Stonehenge Exhibition’, but the display at the British Museum is not on Stonehenge, but about the world in which it was created. I visited it with my London friend, Mary, last Friday. (My previous post is on the Jubilee-riddled London I encountered then.)

Mary had visited the very comprehensive exhibition twice before, so went ahead to pay more attention to later exhibits. I learned from this and did not spend ages on each item, flitting somewhat. My eye – and particularly my camera – was disproportionately attracted to shiny objects. As ever, this is just a small selection of photos I took.

“This scratched wood found near a camp of tents surrounded by woodland suggests the threatening presence of bears.”

I was thrilled to find this. The Sweet Track, named after the person who found it when ditch cleaning in 1970, is buried on the Avalon Marshes, near to my home. It has been dated by dendrochronology to precisely 3807-3806 BC, and is preserved by the peat bogs. I have seen reproductions and imaginary pictures of it, but never a section of the real thing. I could find no suggestion that this was not part of the original …

This exhibit, using a moving light show, showed both the structure and the finished object (see header picture) of the oxen pulling the cart and cart itself. The original, excavated in Germany, was lifted as a single object to preserve the archaeological evidence.

Grave goods, sculpted in chalk, from a child’s tomb, 5000 years ago, Yorkshire
“400 carved stone balls are known, mainly from eastern Scotland.”
The motifs on this one, from Aberdeenshire, “connect it to distant Irish tombs, pots from feasts around Stonehenge, and designs inscribed on the walls of houses in Orkney”. The balls are all about 7cm/2.5 inches in diameter.
Alpine valley of Valcamonica in Italy, about 4,500 years ago. “These designs reflect new attitudes to gender, economic and agricultural productivity, and conflict.”
Belt plates found on the stomachs of Scandinavian women in their graves, 1400 BC. Denmark.
Cape worn by a woman, perhaps a leader, a priestess of even perhaps considered to be a divinity. Mold Flintshire, 1900-1600 BC
The celebrated Nebra Sky Disc, symbol of the exhibition. An offering, but too valuable in terms of the knowledge it contained, to be buried with any one individual. Saxony-Anhalt, Germany, c 1600 BC.
“Calenders of the Cosmos?” inscribed with symbols, worn as hats, France and Germany, 1600-1200 BC. (There are in fact just two hats here.)
Found in a grave 30 km from Stonehenge, symbol of a sun cult, “the cruciform motif may represent the four arms of light seen at sunrise and sunset.” 2400-2200 BC.
Neckpiece found in a Shannongrove bog, County Limerick, Republic of Ireland. 800-700 BC
“Pilgrims or Pioneers?”
Jet buttons or fasteners, Borders, Scotland, 2200 – 1900 BC
Astonishing preservation of some bear skin

These tiny gold pins, almost invisible to the naked eye, were attached to a dagger pommel, using techniques seen in Brittany and Mycenaean Greece.

Grave good found in Clandon Barrow, Dorset, 80 km southwest of Stonehenge, 1950-1550 BC
“This astonishing cauldron was riveted from sheets of bronze and was repaired numerous times. With a capacity of about 70 litres it could boil enough meat to feed a sizeable gathering of friends or potential foes.” Battersea, London, 800-600 BC
Cast to the sky before it sank into a pool. “This offering was a hard sacrifice perhaps made to confront uncertainties in a period of major environmental and social change.” Shropshire, 800 BC
Sun pendant, gold and lead, Co. Kildare, Republic of Ireland, 1000-800 BC

A final comment at the end of the exhibition, which is on until 17th July 2022:

(This article explains a little more to the background to her remark. “[A 1967] article surveyed the discussion of Stonehenge as an observatory: she believed that it was not, that its significance was ritualistic and religious, and that attempts to see it as a scientific construct were as much a product of the present time as the ideas of other ages about Stonehenge were of theirs.”)