Remarkable finds from an unusual source
A large box, filled with Bronze Age finds recovered in Netheravon, was brought to the conservation lab here at the Wiltshire and Swindon History Centre. The objects were covered in moss and smelling rather musty, this however was explained when we were told that the finder of these objects wasn’t an archaeologist but a badger. Deciding to make its home in a convenient mound, the badger inadvertently unearthed finds of a similar style and importance to those found with the nearby Amesbury Archer.
The group of finds include sherds from a large ceramic urn, various bone and antler tools, 2 metal objects (one a serrated blade and the other is still a complete mystery) and most significantly a copper chisel with the decorated bone handle still attached.
The owner of these objects was probably an archer as the finds included a wrist guard used for protection when firing a bow and stone tools used for straightening arrow shafts.
As the objects were damp when they were unearthed we needed to let them slowly dry out before conservation could begin. This is particularly necessary for the bone and antler finds, as with all organic material, bone and antler swell and contract depending on the moisture content of the object and surrounding air. If the objects were to dry out too quickly then cracks and other damage may be caused.
Luckily the badger has not caused too much damage to the objects and evidence of badger activity is only visible in the surface of some fragments of the ceramic sherds. It is probable that the ceramic vessel had remained intact in the ground and unfortunately the badger dug its tunnel through the middle of it, causing the vessel to break into over 200 sherds. The conservators are cleaning and stabilising the ceramic fragments before undertaking a ‘jigsaw without the picture’ to reassemble the vessel. The vessel is nearly complete with very few missing areas meaning after the conservation treatment is completed and the urn is on display, it will give a very good indication of how it would have looked when in use around 3000 years ago.
The keen eyed spotter of the finds was Tom Theed, Landmarc. The site has now been excavated by archaeologists from Defence Infrastructure Organisation, Wessex Archaeology and Operation Nightingale, alongside local volunteers to safely remove the remaining finds and discover the secrets held within the burrow before the details are lost forever. Of course, the badger has been safely moved on to a new home.
Gabreille Flexer, Conservator