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Gathering light: A Bronze Age golden sun

Gathering light: A Bronze Age golden sun

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An extraordinary sun pendant is to go on public display for the first time in Shrewsbury as part of the British Museum’s National Programmes. The sun pendant, also known as a bulla, could be one of the most significant pieces of Bronze Age metalwork ever discovered in Britain. The rare and spectacular object will be hosted at Shrewsbury Museum & Art Gallery from Friday 10 September until 12 December 2021 as a British Museum Spotlight Loan “Gathering light: A Bronze Age golden sun.

Discovered in the Shropshire Marches in May 2018 by a metal detector user who remains anonymous, nothing like the sun pendant has been found in this country for over a century.

The sun pendant is over 3,000 years old, dating between 1000–800BC in the late Bronze Age period. The elegant form and intricate decoration of the gold pendant includes an exceptionally rare depiction of the sun – not previously seen on objects found in Britain. Solar symbolism was a key element of mythology and belief in the Bronze Age and this pendant celebrates the life-giving power of the sun during the time of the earliest metalworkers. The sun pendant is therefore a hugely significant addition to knowledge of the art and iconography of Bronze Age Britain.

The sun pendant marks the end of an era as one of the final expressions of an art style and belief system that had lasted for almost 1,500 years. Deposited intentionally in a wetland landscape of bogs and ponds 3,000 years ago, the pendant provides a starting point for discussions about the role of both water and the sun in religious beliefs and life in deep history. Measuring 3.6cm high and 4.7cm wide, this bulla is only the second ever found in BritainThe other Irton bulla – now lost – was discovered near Manchester in 1722 and only known from a picture. Its quality was so high that experts of the day believed it must be Roman. It was last recorded in 1806 before disappearing from records. Curators hope it may one day be rediscovered in a private collection. In Ireland, six similar gold pendants have been found, though these are not identical to this gold pendant.

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