WE ALL know about the Watlington hoard of Viking silver buried in the 870s AD. But people haven’t yet heard about the Bix hoard from the Bronze Age, 2500 to 800 years BC.

It was discovered by a metal detectorist only a few months ago. The treasure is spectacular, special, very rare and so fresh the objects are still with Oxfordshire county Council and have yet to be sent to the British Museum for a final report.

What is it like to scrape the mud off a find dated from 1,400 to 1,150 BC in the Middle Bronze Age?

Anni Byard, Oxfordshire Finds Liaison Officer told me: “When you are the first person to see these objects in 3,500 years it does make your spine go. It was a privilege. You are allowed to see something very special.”

Bronze Age finds are not common and the Bix hoard is the only one from Oxfordshire with objects of personal adornment and ornament and personal grooming. It consists of 19 objects which are now in 85 fragments.

A Reading man had been metal detecting for a couple of weeks during November in a remote field around Bix and discovered Bronze Age fragments scattered over a wide area. When he found a large concentration he stopped digging and called Anni.

He logged all his finds by Global Positioning Satellites (GPS) and kept watch over the site each day until the team from the Oxfordshire County Council and the British Museum scheme could investigate.

Anni was very supportive of the man who made the find. “He did all the right things. He stopped digging immediately when he realised it was a hoard and thus reduced his chances of damaging the treasure. He called in experts and was open and helpful.

“When I got to the site the treasure was only 10 to 12 inches below the soil of an ordinary Bix farm field.

“The hoard had been hit by a plough and was dispersed over a wide area. We didn’t know until the very end of digging the treasure that it was a vessel filled with objects. A plough had cut off half the vessel which was lying on its side, so the main treasure was found with half the artefacts protected within the pot.”

The most important object is a bracelet or arm decoration dating from 1,400 to 1,200 BC. I found it was very heavy when I picked it up. Anni told me “Although it now has a green patina, when it was worn as an ornament in past millennia it would have had a golden shine.”

Personal hygiene objects from 3,500 years ago are very rare, but the hoard includes two razors. I lifted one very light razor about two inches long and saw it was decorated on each side down the central rim with uneven and unequal panels of chevrons, cross-hatching and diagonal lines. According to Anni this is most unusual. How often will you handle a Bronze razor made 3,500 years ago by a craftsman who put his own design on it?

The rest of the hoard consists of daggers, rapiers, hair pins, necklaces and more.

Anni explained the process of uncovering the treasure. She invited the finder to come along when the clump of dirt was gently lifted from the field.

“I think it is important for the finder to be there from the start and be part of the process. He was a bit shaky because he knew he had found something important and yet delicate. He was excited, fascinated and nervous, nearly every emotion you can imagine, but he was also apprehensive.

Oxford Mail:  Oxford Mail:

  • Some of the artefacts found in Bix

I thought the main emotion would be exhilaration and could not understand the apprehension. Anni explained “His question was – had he done it right? He was helping to discover archaeology and he didn’t want to find that he had helped destroy it by disturbing it and making the initial dig.”

Where will the Bix hoard go from here? The find is so significant it will go the British Museum for a final report by their Bronze Age curator. If it is classed as Treasure under the Treasure Act passed in 1996, the Bix hoard will go to the Coroner’s Court in Oxford for an inquest.

If the coroner rules it is treasure, then the hoard is offered to British museums for a first refusal.

The Treasure Valuation Committee, composed of academics, auctioneers and other professionals will determine a current market value that it would fetch at an open auction.

If the land owner and the finder accept this valuation, the treasure can be sold to a museum which will get grants, donations or public subscriptions to buy it.

The price is split evenly between the land owner and the finder.