National Museums NI opens its first exhibition of the year at the Ulster Museum on 18 January entitled Hoards: the hidden history of ancient Britain and Ireland. The touring exhibition, from the British Museum and Salisbury Museum, uncovers the stories behind the headlines of buried treasure, focusing on prehistoric, Roman and later hoards.
The exhibition traces the story of hoarding from Bronze Age weapons discovered in the river Thames and the first Iron Age coin hoards, through to hoards buried after the collapse of Roman rule in Britain and in more recent times. It showcases recent discoveries of hoards reported by finders and archaeologists through the Treasure Act. The exhibition also includes objects from National Museums NI’s own hoards collection including two magnificent Roman rings from Murlough, County Down, on display for the first time.
The substantial collection of artefacts and treasure on display include two spectacular Iron Age gold torcs from Ipswich. In addition to these unique artefacts, some rare items from Ireland, on loan from the British Museum, are also on show in the exhibition in Belfast.
The display explores the reasons why ancient people have placed precious objects underwater and in the ground since the Bronze Age. They may have been accidentally lost or stolen, discarded as worthless, saved for recycling, hidden for safekeeping, or offered up to the gods. Prehistoric communities deposited hoards as part of rituals to honour gods or ancestors, and to demonstrate power and wealth, while Roman coin hoards have traditionally been viewed as being hidden for safekeeping from external threats.
Dr Greer Ramsey, National Museums NI’s Curator of Archaeology, said: “This fascinating exhibition is a unique opportunity to see items dating back to Britain and Ireland’s ancient past. It explores the act of hoarding, whether this reflects objects hidden for safe keeping or as part of religious or ritual activity’.
Greer added: “We are delighted to collaborate with the British Museum and Salisbury Museum to display items that have been rarely seen by our museum visitors ranging from Bronze Age jewellery to spectacular coin hoards, telling a story about how people lived thousands of years ago in Britain and Ireland.”
Hartwig Fischer, Director of the British Museum, said “We are delighted to be working once again in Belfast with National Museums NI and are thrilled that the public will have the chance to visit the Ulster Museum to see the amazing treasures and stories explored in Hoards. This exhibition, organised in partnership with Salisbury Museum, demonstrates the British Museum’s commitment to engage people of all ages throughout the whole of the United Kingdom with archaeology, ancient history and the spectacular objects in our collections.”
The exhibition tour is generously supported by the Dorset Foundation in memory of Harry M Weinrebe and tours to five locations across the UK until December 2019.
Hoards: the hidden history of ancient Britain and Ireland, A British Museum and Salisbury Museum Partnership Exhibition is on display at the Ulster Museum, Belfast, until 31 March 2019. Admission is free. For further information on all exhibition and events visit www.nmni.com