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Bush Barrow – gold studs

The Bush Barrow Chieftain died in about 1950BC and was buried under a barrow on top of a ridge looking down over Stonehenge. He was buried with the objects that symbolised his power and authority – an axe, ceremonial mace, gold sheet lozenge and two bronze daggers. His axe and daggers resemble those carved on the stones at Stonehenge.

One of the daggers has a pommel set with thousands of tiny gold studs, each the same thickness as a human hair and about 1 millimetre long.  The wood of the dagger handle was covered with pine gum and a sharp bronze point used to make a hole into the wood. A gold stud was then positioned in the hole.

A watercolour of the dagger when it was excavated shows that the gold studs were set in a zig-zag pattern. Seen under a microscope, the studs were positioned at a density suggesting that over 70,000 gold studs were needed to complete the decoration. Bronze Age craftspeople did not have magnifying glasses and so the work may have been undertaken by children with acute eyesight.

Wilsford G5


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