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Top 10 Archaeology

1. Cast copper alloy cruciform brooch

C. Mid to late 6th century, 1995. 24.7

This is an example of a common style of cruciform brooches found during this period. The foot of this brooch ends in an animal head with scrolled nostrils and side lappets in the form of downward-biting animal heads.  The additional decoration on the top knob is less usual, however similar designs have been found on brooches from East Anglia.  Women would typically wear two brooches, at the shoulders, in order to fasten their dresses, while only a single brooch was required for cloaks. 

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2. Eggleston Urn


This bucket urn was discovered in Eggleston after a flooding of the Tees in 1967 and is thought to date from the late Bronze Age pottery tradition found in Northern England and Southern Scotland.  The urn is very coarse with a brown exterior and light brown-grey interior.  There are three or four faint slight grooves located under the rim, perhaps the result of the potter running his/her fingers around the top of the vessel during construction.  

Found inside the urn were the cremated remains of at least one individual.  Most of the contents of the urn were unidentifiable; however there were some identifiable fragments of skull and human bone as well as 11 tooth fragments. One of the teeth suggested the individual in question was 5-6 years old. This is supported by the fact that the skull fragments are all fairly thin, like that of a small child.   Read More

3. Gainford Stone

This cup and ring stone was discovered in Gainford in 1932 during building work.  Both sides of the stone are decorated with the cup and ring design.  Cup and ring stones can be found all over the world.  Here these Neolithic and Bronze-Age created over 4,000 years ago are most commonly found in Northern England and Scotland.   

Today we do not know the meaning behind the cup and ring marks for certain, but the most popular theory is that the marks are spiritual in nature and symbolize links between the past and present, the living and the dead, or between the real and spiritual worlds.  This is due to the location where most cup and ring stones are found, i.e. in ‘liminal’ locations “where dark meets light, where mountains touch the sky, or the sea reaches the shore”, all areas which hunter-gatherers believed were the domain of supernatural beings or ancestors.  Read More

4. Gilmonby Hoard

C. 1000 -700 B.C.

Discovered in Gilmonby,  this hoard contained a total of 123 objects, including axes, swords, and spear heads.  As many of the objects are damaged it is believed that they belonged to a metalsmith who planned to melt them down to make new objects, however for unknown reasons he was unable to return and recover the hoard.  These metal objects would have been considered quite valuable for reuse as metal was a precious commodity during the Late Bronze Age.  

Even in their damaged condition these objects provide us with valuable examples of craftsmanship during this period. Read More

5. Bellamine Jar

C. 1520-1760. Stoneware.

Bellamine jars are also commonly referred to as Bartmann jars, Bartmann meaning ‘bearded man’.  Such images were common on jars and jugs during this period.  
This face is thought to be modelled on Cardinal Roberto Bellarmino (1542 – 1621), an important figure of the Counter Reformation, who was made a saint in 1930 by Pope Pius XI. These types of jugs are often grouped together and called Bellamine jars, even though some were made before Bellarmino was born.  

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6. Roman Dog Statuette from the Founder’s Collection

Founders’ Bequest

Dogs are often depicted in Roman art as on guard or hunting.  In some Roman religions dogs were seen as agents of healing (through the licking of wounds) and as protectors of the dead.  Animal statuettes like this would be kept with those of the household gods.  

Very little information was recorded when this and similar archaeological items were purchased by John and Josephine Bowes.  Therefore we do not know when or where this dog statuette was excavated.  The purchase of such objects illustrates the Bowes’ wish to provide museum visitors with access to archaeological specimens from different cultures.   Read More

7. Egyptian Mummified Hand

Date Unknown,1934.1

This embalmed Egyptian hand was discovered in the tombs at Luxor.  Henna can still be seen on the finger-nails and there are remains of a lapis lazuli ring on one of the fingers.

The hand was acquired during World War I by a private A. E. Attle of the Royal Army Medical Corps.

Donated to The Bowes Museum by Mr. W. M. Woods of Crook. Read More

8. Chester-le-Street Face Pot

C. Late 3rd/ Early 4th century

Face pots were probably introduced into Britain by the Roman army in the 1st century A.D. Generally they consisted of crude, barbaric features attached onto a storage jar or cooking pot on the shoulder or neck.  The faces may have served as protection for the contents of the pots, i.e. cremations or harvested goods.   

In Britain many face pots have been found on military sites, such as this one discovered under a Late 3rd/ early 4th century gate tower in Chester-le-Street. Soldiers moving from fort to fort may have taken the pots with them. This pot is grey coarseware with an applied bearded face and appliquéd smiths tools on the girth.  It contained the cremated remains of an animal, most probably a dog. 

Later medieval Bellamine jars evolved from face pots.   Read More

9. Piercebridge Head Pot

C. Early 3rd century

Human faces are often found on Roman pottery and may suggest a religious purpose.  Roman head pots have been found in forts, villas, towns, villages, in wells, fields, bathhouses, and graves.  

This head pot features a woman with an elaborate hairstyle gathered into a coiled bun. This was a typical Roman hairstyle of the time,  possibly copying the fashion set by Julia Domna, the wife of the Emperor Septimius Severus (193 – 211 AD), who was known to have visited Britain.  The woman featured is also wearing earrings with distinct eyes and eyebrows. This pot is similar in style to those found in Northern Africa and was one of 48 head pots found in Piercebridge. Read More

10. Polished Flint Axe

Neolithic period C. 4000-2200 B.C

This polished axe is in very good condition and made of white flint.  One face is convex and the other very slightly concave, with a symmetrical working edge.  It is polished on the working edge and a little near the bottom of the axe. Such axes were usually made to fit comfortably in the hand or hafted to a handle, and was a multipurpose tool used for chopping, cutting, and scraping.  

It was found under a flagged floor in Harwood, Co. Durham. Read More

The Bowes Museum is closed!

Due to the government announcement on Thursday 17 December, that County Durham is to remain in COVID tier 3 restrictions, The Bowes Museum unfortunately will remain closed to all visitors.

As we have already been shut for a number of weeks and there is much uncertainty around possible further restrictions, we have decided to use this period to undertake some work in Caf� Bowes, alongside performing some much-needed structural repairs to the building, notably to the windows. January and February are usually quieter times for the Museum, often due to severe weather, so we believe that this is the best time to carry out such works with the least amount of disruption to our visitors.

We have therefore decided to remain closed for a period of four weeks following any near-future tier 2 announcement from the government, as this will allow us time to deep clean the Museum prior to reopening our doors once again. We will, of course, keep you updated as the guidelines change.

Your ongoing support during these unprecedented times is hugely appreciated and we very much look forward to welcoming you back into the building as early as possible in 2021.

Do please remember, however, that the Museum�s park and grounds remain open to visitors from 10.00 � 4.00 daily, and that we are currently hosting a woodland fairy trail, clues can be found here.

We hope to be able to offer a few COVID-safe outdoor events over the coming months, about which we shall make further announcements as soon as possible.