This perfectly preserved, 3,000 year-old flower was found INSIDE the hollow end of an axe, showing that Bronze Age hoards weren’t just about metal.

In 2016, DigVentures was called out to investigate a freshly discovered hoard. Clearly dating to the Late Bronze Age, the frankly “jaw-dropping” collection of artefacts consisted of weapons and jewellery, including spears, axeheads, bracelets, arm rings, a chisel and ornaments, many in virtually pristine condition. While other hoards are generally made up of one or two different types of objects, this one was outstanding for its variety.

But the true extent of its variety was only revealed when our colleague and collaborator Stuart Noon from the Portable Antiquities Scheme took the hoard into the lab for closer examination. Carefully tucked into the hollow end of an axe was… a perfectly preserved flower!

On first impressions, we thought it was a thistle, but closer inspection revealed it to be meadowsweet – a strongly scented flower that could be used for scenting rooms, and which is said to have medicinal purposes too.

Since the flower appeared to have been placed inside the axe head deliberately, the lab team decided to look inside some of the other bronze artefacts too. Sure enough, they had also been stuffed – this time with hazel nuts.

Hoards like this were deliberately buried in wet and waterlogged sites – rivers, streams and bogs – by people who lived within farming communities. Comparable ones, at least in terms of their metal artefacts, have been found in Ireland and Scotland, reflecting connections between communities across the Irish Sea and into Scotland.

But it’s the discovery of a perfectly preserved flower in its midst that makes this one so beautifully unique. More than that, it suggests that these votive offerings weren’t just about metal and material wealth. If flowers, nuts and other organic or perishable offerings were included in this one, then it raises the question: were they included in others too?

These artefacts will continue to be analysed in the lab, and we can’t wait to hear more!

Always wanted to try archaeology?

DigVentures crowdfunds archaeological projects that everyone can be part of, in the UK and overseas. With help from people all over the world, we investigate the past and publish our discoveries online for free. Support one of our digs and you can choose to watch our discoveries as they happen, or roll up your sleeves and excavate alongside our team!

Choose a dig

Maiya Pina-Dacier

Head of Community at DigVentures, Maiya digs with a trowel in one hand, and a Twitter feed in the other. She reports on all our discoveries live from the trenches, and keeps our Site Hut full of the latest archaeology news. Got a story? Just drop her a line...

Full Author Profile +