Review: A Geography of Offerings: Deposits of Valuables in the Landscapes of Ancient Europe (Oxbow Insights in Archaeology) by Richard Bradley (2016) Assessment 8 out of 10

Takes the long view over a wide geographic area.

Bradley argues the importance of metal objects has been over-, the general makeup of deposits and location of find spots, under-emphasised, and the sacrifice of living creatures, combined with feasting, over the long period is more important than the deposit of valuables.

Deposits were made repeatedly at certain sites, indicating their special quality.

There are patterns of location; in SE England hoards are found in dry sites associated with springs or on small areas of higher land between confluences. I think the same applies in Jersey. British Iron Age round houses and hillforts are oriented to the east, so are deposits of coins hoards. Were they “hidden in plain sight” , the deposit protected by spells and incantations and therefore left undisturbed?

There are patterns in what is deposited where. Weapons are found in major streams, ornaments in still water. At Flag Fen metalwork was concentrated along the southern edge of the post alignment, faunal deposits to the north including a high proportion of dogs.

Some objects were broken, others remade, before deposit. Most Bronze Age swords in Britain and France were broken. in Spain this was rare, so there was geographic variation of treatment. The sacrifice of living beings can involve violence. Is this repeated in the breaking of offerings before deposit?

The argument hoards were buried in times of disruption and invasion for recovery later, as evidence of such disruption becomes circular. It may explain some hoards but not all and not everywhere.

Other reasons for deposits include for objects to be removed from circulation to protect or extinguish their powers, to provide goods for the gods and to provide for or to commemorate the dead.

If the extraction of metals was believed empowered by the gods, returning them to the ground returned them to the gods and to their protection. Deposits of objects may have been made as an alternative to burials with grave goods in periods when cremation was more common than burial.

Burials in Iron Age grain pits is indicative of regeneration. Peat was used for fuel and as building material, so do bog-burials in peat workings also indicate regeneration?

What Bradley has to say is inspiring. However this is a short wide printed book and I would query the price for what he himself describes as an extended essay. That said, like the best essays, it is full of ideas to be developed and challenged

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