Ancient feasting and modern research: investigations the spectacular cauldrons from Chiseldon

Last week’s staff breakfast talk was delivered by Curator Jody Joy and Conservators Alexandra Baldwin and Jamie Hood. They presented the British Museum’s investigations and conservation of an Iron Age cauldron from Chiseldon.

In 2004, a fragment of sheet bronze was found in a field near the village of Chiseldon in Wiltshire. Six months later, the British Museum in collaboration with Wessex Archaeology, excavated the site. They found 12 large cauldrons buried in a pit. In 2007, the British Museum has acquired them in our collection and is now in the process of conserving and studying to shed new light onto this little know type of object. 

Andrew Armstrong of Wessex Archaeology sketching a plan of the burial pit

To find out more information about the Chiseldon cauldrons, please check this link.

The exploration of this hoard is very important. Previously, many cauldrons were discovered in rivers so the investigations were based only on the artefacts. Because the Chiseldon cauldrons were so well-excavated, archaeologists’ ambition is try to reveal how they were made, the context of manufacture, how long they were used for, what they were used for and how, why and when they were deposited.

Following a few years of investigation, we now know more about their origin and utility. The Chiseldon cauldrons are dated between 200 – 50 BC and because of their unique decoration, they are very different from vessels examined so far. As well as, the objects were used not for everyday purposes, but especially for the Feasts.

Battersea cauldron, Bronze Age / Iron Age, 800-700 BC. From the River Thames at Battersea, London, England.

To read more about the excavation and conservation of these cauldrons, please check this link.

Alicja Sliwinska