Study unlocks secrets of the Knaresborough Hoard
Jan 25, 2024
The Knaresborough Hoard. Image: The Yorkshire Museum

A university study has made some fascinating discoveries about the mysterious Knaresborough Hoard.

The hoard, which consists of 30 items discovered in 1864, is the only known example of a late Roman hoard of this type to be recovered from a bog or marsh in Britain.

Although it was found 150 years ago, there has never been any detailed analysis of the items and its discovery has never been fully understood.

Most of the items are on display in The Yorkshire Museum in York, having been donated in 1864 by Knaresborough ironmonger and town councillor Thomas Gott.

Now Newcastle University archaeology student Jessica De Maso has carried out the first comprehensive study of the hoard as part of her MA degree.

Ms De Maso’s research suggests the hoard was discovered in a boggy area near Farnham, approximately two miles north of Knaresborough.

Two Roman roads ran through the area, providing connections to York and Hadrian’s Wall, which suggests the items may have come from wealthy Romans in the area.

The research team thinks the items were to impress guests because when polished, the bronze would have resembled gold.

It is unknown why the items were together or in a bog. It could be for ritual or spiritual reasons, to hide them, or make them irretrievable.

The research also discovered more about Thomas Gott and his discovery. At the time he was Knaresborough improvement commissioner and knew the estate manager of land near Farnham.

The landowner commissioned work on drainage in a marshy part of his land, making it likely that is where the hoard was found.

They also found evidence that there were originally more items in the hoard when discovered, but many had been mistakenly melted down by Gott.

Ms De Maso said:

“The study of the Knaresborough Hoard at the Yorkshire Museum was an incredible opportunity to engage with the idea that endless avenues of research can be done on existing collections in museums. I found this to be especially engaging and wonderfully challenging.”

Kathy Allday, chair of Knaresborough Museum Association, said:

 “It is fantastic. It is one of the most important and historically significant artefacts in the country. All the work they have done is brilliant, it has an interesting story behind it and it was found only two miles away from Knaresborough.”

She added:

“It would be wonderful to return it, even on loan, but it is not something to happen in the short term.”

Large fluted bowl from the Knaresborough Hoard. Image: the Yorkshire Museum

James Gerrard, professor of Roman archaeology at Newcastle University, said:

“This project has shown the value in re-visiting old discoveries and we’re delighted to have the opportunity to work alongside the Yorkshire Museum to understand more about this extraordinary collection and who Thomas Gott was. It’s good to know that more than 150 years on, our research has helped tell a fascinating, if complex, part of the story about this remarkable discovery.”

Adam Parker, curator of archaeology at the Yorkshire Museum, said:

 “The Knaresborough Hoard is an exceptional collection of Roman copper alloys. The excellent work has unlocked the research potential of these objects for the first time and will allow us to tell their story more completely.”

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