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Rookie treasure hunter finds London’s largest haul of Bronze Age goods on his first ever dig 

The first object discovered in London’s largest ever Bronze Age hoard was spotted by a newly qualified archaeologist on his first job out of university.

The Havering Hoard is a treasure trove of 453 artefacts dating back nearly 3,000 years including axe heads, spearheads, daggers, knives and copper ingots. 

Harry Platts was 21 when he started working at the dig site in Havering – straight out of university – and after a week he spotted something green at the edge of a trench.

This turned out to be the first piece of metal that eventually formed the Havering hoard and if he hadn’t been so eagle-eyed the rest may have remained buried forever. 

The object, an axe head, along with other ancient finds including fragments of swords, was entirely hidden between two trenches, in an area not due to be excavated.

Mr Platts, told the Times that making the discovery while just 21 was ‘completely lucky for me’ as they were only digging 50 per cent of the ditch.

‘But because all the axes were close together they were almost all in one of the plots of earth that would not have been dug,’ he said.

‘The axe stuck out by an inch into my slot and it was quite far down, so if my sides hadn’t been dead straight we might have missed it.’

Also found were rare a pair of terret rings which are thought to have been used to prevent the reins from tangling on horse-drawn carts.

All the items were found by archaeologists in September 2018 and date back to between 800BC and 900BC.  

Platts was on a six-week temporary contract with Archaeological Solutions – who were examining the site before a development project could start.

‘The items we found were in small groups so, that evening, we excavated the first group thinking this was it,’ Platts said.

‘My supervisor and I were digging and drawing, we had other people making photogrammetry models. Other people were GPS recording and cataloguing the finds. By the time I finally got back, it was”Let’s crack open the beers.”‘

The Havering Hoard will be the centrepiece of a display at the Museum of London Docklands which is set to open on September 11. 

Experts believe the location may have been a weapon shop or blacksmiths due to how carefully the items were grouped together. 

They also haven’t ruled out the collection being an offering to the gods – a common practice in Bronze Age societies.    

It is well-known that Bronze Age societies made sacrifices to appease their gods and offerings were made by either burying the sacrifice or placing it in water. 

Almost all the objects found as part of this hoard appear to be partially broken or damaged.

Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson said: ‘This extraordinary discovery adds immensely to our understanding of Bronze Age life.’ 

The museum acquired the objects after they were declared treasure by the coroner.

As part of the new major exhibition, Havering Hoard: A Bronze Age Mystery, visitors will have the chance to study the objects uncovered by Platts and the team.  

With all 453 artefacts on display alongside objects from the museum’s collection, the exhibition will explore why the hoard came to be at its location near the Thames. 

Kate Sumnall, Curator of Archaeology at the Museum of London, said the hoard will be displayed in its entirety for the first time. 

‘This is a hugely significant archaeological find that adds valuable new information into a fascinating moment of London’s past,’ Sumnall said. 

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