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Updated: 04:14 24/06/21

Ancient gold hairpin declared treasure

By Michael Pinson, News Editor

15 Jan 2021

A previously discovered golden ornament has been officially classed as a treasure, and is believed to be one of Britain’s oldest examples of gold metalwork.

The nearly pure gold ornament was originally discovered in 2014 by a group of young volunteer archaeologists and was found in the Kirkhaugh Cairns located in Kirkhaugh, Northumberland.

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Kirkhuagh Cairn gold ornament

One of the golden hairpins found at Kirkhaugh Cairn - Image courtesy of Wikimedia creative commons.

The object has now been declared a treasure however by coroner Andrew Herrington, in a hearing at the county hall in nearby Morpeth. The official treasure designation means that the item will now be offered for sale to a museum, and its price will be set by the independent Treasure Valuation Committee.

The Kirkhaugh Cairns are a small group of burial plots, dated from the Bronze Age, and have proven to be a source of key archaeological finds over the years. Two confirmed graves have been excavated at the site, with one believed to be a metalworker’s grave, and the items discovered are thought to be some of the earliest evidence of metalworking in Britain.

The two cairns were originally excavated in 1935 by archaeologist Herbert Maryon and his assistant Joseph William Alderson. Within, a number of items were found, including what was identified as a gold earring. This has since been categorised as a hairpin, or broach.

A community excavation of the area in 2014 saw a group of four young volunteers discover the latest item, believed to be a pair for the original hairpin. In an interesting twist of fate, two of the four boys were the great-grandchildren of Alderson himself, providing a new chapter in the family’s archaeological legacy.

The find serves as a reminder of the timeless appeal of gold. At nearly 4,500 years old, these items are undoubtedly national treasures, and British museum’s will no doubt be glad to add them to their displays.

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