A re-interpretation of the late Bronze Age metalwork hoards of Essex and Kent
Recent works have offered an alternative to traditional archaeological classification, particularly in the field of ceramic studies. These use theories of human categorisation processes derived from other areas of research, in particular psychology and linguistics. The purpose of this thesis was - through reference to the advances made in studies of this kind - to re-interpret a body of metalwork evidence, in particular the 'founder's hoards' of the 'Carp's Tongue' Complex in Essex and Kent. These hoards include a wide range of artefact categories, often surviving in fragmentary condition, and have traditionally been interpreted as an inevitable by-product of the metalworking process. By examining the nature of the contents and the structure of these hoards, and by making a detailed appraisal of the manner in which each of the individual artefact categories included was treated prior to its inclusion in the hoard, it was possible to establish that there was indeed a strong association with the metalworking process. It also became apparent that regularised methods of destruction were employed upon the artefact categories included in these hoards, and that specific selection processes operated during the accumulation of the hoard contents, with certain artefact categories being favoured for inclusion. It therefore seemed likely that, instead of being a direct by-product of the metalworking process, these hoards were instead collections of metalwork which deliberately referenced the metalworking process, as well as other routine activities, such as the agricultural cycle. By considering these findings within a wider context, it was possible to see these hoards as functioning as material props in ceremonies which created metaphorical associations between activities often perceived by archaeologists as being secular in character with more metaphysical aspects of existence, such as the transformation of the body after death.