‘Havering Hoard’ reveals that British people brushed themselves with bronze razors and tweezers 2900 years ago
The largest collection of Bronze Age objects ever excavated in London has provided an insight into the beauty regime and lifestyle of British people 2900 years ago.
A double-sided razor and tweezers discovered in London date from around 900 BC and are part of the Havering Hoard.
Both are made of the copper alloy and show that hair removal has been an integral part of British society for thousands of years.
Other finds first revealed to the public include a bracelet fragment made from finely crafted bronze that required great skill to forge.
These rare artifacts will be on display at the Museum of London Docklands as soon as the museum can be reopened after the coronavirus crisis.
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A double-sided razor (top) and tweezers (bottom) discovered in London date from around 900 BC and are part of the Havering Hoard
The razor (photo) and the bracelet are both made of very thin bronze, which requires a high skill to create. It also means that they are vulnerable
Shown, a bracelet discovered in the Havering Hoard prior to the upcoming major exhibition, Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery, at the Museum of London Docklands. The items are said to be on public display on April 3, but this has been delayed due to the outbreak of COVID-19
The Havering Hoard is the largest collection of Bronze Age objects ever in London and contains 453 artifacts.
The discovery of the double-sided razor shows an element of choice in the aesthetic of the Bronze Age.
It implies that men can grow facial hair or be clean-shaven, and suggests a degree of individualism in the ancient culture of the British Isles.
Tweezers were also sometimes buried next to men as part of a grooming kit
Curator Kate Sumnall, of the Museum of London, told MailOnline: ‘Bronze Age tweezers and razors have been found that provide clues to hair removal, suggesting that appearance was important and also linked to Bronze Age identity.
In Scandinavia, funerals with extraordinary conservation have been discovered, including buried shaved men.
“Razors are included in higher status burials and treasures, so they seem to be prestigious objects.”
Depicted, an amber-decorated mantle pin and an intact loom and ash wolf. The ceramic items are very durable due to the way they are made and have survived intact. The large pin was found in the Thames, at Strand-on-the-Green, and is said to have been used to secure a cloak or the like
Jewelry was also discovered during the excavations, including fragments of a bracelet and a cloak pin decorated with excavated amber. Pictured, bracelets from the Bronze Age collection at the Museum of London, not part of the Havering treasure. The treasure contained only copper and bronze objects, but these are made of jet and gold. It is believed that the people who lived in the Thames Valley 3,000 years ago imported goods through trade
How the Havering Hoard was excavated
The Havering Hoard was buried in four parts.
The first part ‘treasure 1’ was discovered and excavated on site by trained archaeologists.
When treasure 2, 3 and 4 were discovered, the archaeologists decided that the excavations would be best done slowly and in a laboratory.
Huge blocks of soil were removed and transported for analysis.
They were then ‘micro-excavated’ under laboratory conditions by Pieta Greaves of Drakon Heritage and Conservation.
She recorded the location of each object, then carefully cleaned and stabilized a selection of objects.
Jewelry was also discovered during the excavations, including fragments of a bracelet and an amber-decorated cloak pin.
The razor and the bracelet are both made of very thin bronze, which requires a high skill to create. It also means they are vulnerable, “said Ms. Sumnall.
“The razor edges are missing and the bracelet needs some stabilization as some pieces had come loose while it was in the ground.
“The big pin was found in the Thames, at Strand-on-the-Green, it also dates from the late Bronze Age and is said to have been used to secure a cloak or the like.”
The razor and the bracelet were not perfectly preserved – a common feature of the Havering Hoard.
Ms. Sumnall explains that only one-sixth of the objects in the entire Hoard have been found intact.
“The rest have been deliberately broken,” she adds. “We don’t know why they were broken, possibly for recycling or for ease of transportation, possibly to take them out of everyday use, or possibly as part of a ritual.”
Some of the best-preserved items are those made of ceramic, such as an intact loom and spindle.
These are made to last and the production of ceramics includes high temperature firing which improves their durability.
Ax heads discovered in the Havering Hoard are depicted. The treasure room was filled with various weapons and a few personal items
Beneath the revealed objects are a few back rings (pictured), a rare discovery as these are the first Bronze Age examples ever found in the UK. These objects are said to have been used to prevent the reins in horse carts from tangling
The treasure trove of 453 objects dating back nearly 3,000 years includes ax heads, spear tips, fragments of swords, daggers, knives and copper blocks. Items were found by archaeologists in September 2018 and date from 800 to 900 BC
“These objects provide insight into the activities that took place on site – spinning and weaving wool,” explains Ms Sumnall.
It suggests that sheep were kept nearby, and it also provides clues as to what the Bronze Age people wore, for blankets or perhaps for tapestries or carpets in the round house.
The artifacts found on the Havering site, combined with objects from our collections, provide a greater picture of who the people who were living in the London area at the time, what they looked like and what was important to them. ‘
Most of the items in the treasure are ax heads, spear points, fragments of swords, daggers, knives and copper blocks.
All items underwent a rigorous conservation process and would be shown to the public on April 3, but this has been delayed due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
Ms. Sumnall, of the Museum of London, told MailOnline that only a small percentage of the items in the treasure were used for personal care or decoration.
However, she says, the weapons and tools commonly found in the treasure were important personal possessions that likely had significant significance for individuals.
Researchers wonder why the treasure was buried in the first place and understand the treasure house’s origins of Bronze Age artifacts.
“The artifacts in the Havering Hoard provide clues as to what was important and valued in society at this time,” said Ms. Sumnall.
“We cannot know the rationale for creating and burying a treasure, but we can study the selection of which objects were chosen to be included and also the condition of the objects.
‘These objects were all made of bronze and the blocks are made of copper, this metal was very valuable and could be recycled to bury large quantities in the ground, the interesting question why.
The objects themselves are a mixture of tools such as axes that would have been common property and the higher status or more unusual such as the razor or the back rings (used to guide horse reins on a cart).
“These give a tantalizing look at the daily tasks that Bronze Age people performed, such as cutting down trees to build boats and houses, as well as clues about how they traveled and the animals they kept.”
WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT BRONZE AGE BRITAIN?
The Bronze Age in Britain started around 2000 BC and lasted almost 1500 years.
It was a time when advanced bronze tools, pots and weapons were brought in from continental Europe.
Skulls discovered from this period are vastly different from Stone Age skulls, suggesting that this migration period brought new ideas and new blood from abroad.
Bronze is made from 10 percent tin and 90 percent copper, both of which were plentiful at the time.
Crete appears to be an expansion center for the bronze trade in Europe and weapons first came from the Mycensians of southern Russia.
It is widely believed that bronze first came to Britain with the Beaker population living in the temperate regions of Europe about 4,500 years ago.
They got their name from their distinctive bell-shaped cups, decorated in horizontal zones with fine-toothed stamps.
The decorated pots are present almost everywhere in Europe and could have been used as drinking bowls or ceremonial urns.
Originally from Spain, the Beaker folk soon spread to Central and Western Europe in search of metals.
Textile production was also going on at the time, and people were wearing wrapskirts, tunics and coats. Men were generally clean-shaven and had long hair.
The dead were cremated or buried in small cemeteries close to settlements.
This period was followed by the Iron Age that started around 650 BC and ended around 43 AD.