Conserving fragile Iron Age cauldrons from Glenfield Park

MOLA team
23.11.2017

Thought to date to the 4th-3rd centuries BC, a remarkable group of 11 Iron Age cauldrons was uncovered on an archaeological site on the fringes of Leicester in 2013 by a team from ULAS. This was the first such discovery of these vessels in the East Midlands.

They were lifted by conservators in blocks of their surrounding soil so that they can be excavated and recorded microscopically in MOLA’s conservation laboratory.

This is just one of the CT scan images that has given our conservators the first glimpses of what lies beneath the soil.

CT scan Iron Age Cauldron from Glenfield Leicestershire

Scan courtesy of Dr Andrew Gogbashian, Paul Strickland Scanner Centre.

The cauldrons consist of copper alloy bowls to which iron bands and rims and iron ring handles are attached. They are corroded and crushed from their time in the ground but most remain complete or with large, complete sections with their fragments in position.

Over the next 2-3 years our conservators will be excavating, recording and preserving the remains of each cauldron in turn. This is a meticulous process, requiring the delicate removal of hardened clay soil from egg-shell thin corroded copper bowls from above and below to examine and record the surfaces.

They will also be recording and sampling metal elements that survive in sufficient condition to reveal more about their construction, as well as any associated organic remains such as food residues or traces of associated plant fibre or animal bone that may indicate their former use, through scientific analysis.

The aim of the conservation work is to uncover features that show how they were made, decorated and repaired, how similar or different they are to other cauldrons of the period, what they were used for, how long they were used for, and how they finally came to be buried. This work will help us to discover more about the role of these objects in the Iron Age and their value to the prehistoric people who used and buried them.

The Glenfield Park Project is funded by the developer, Wilson Bowden Developments Ltd. For more information about the cauldrons and their discovery visit the ULAS website.

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