11/10/2018New Neolithic and Bronze Age exhibition curated in partnership with British Museum
Powerful, ceremonial objects—including among the most prized objects in the British Museum’s collection of ancient Britain and Europe—to go on display at Stonehenge.
A new exhibition at Stonehenge highlights the shifting relationship between the British Isles and Continental Europe during the Neolithic and Bronze Ages.
Making Connections: Stonehenge in its Prehistoric World, which opens at Stonehenge tomorrow (Friday 12 October), has been curated in partnership with the British Museum.
The exhibition will show different periods of connection and relative isolation between the ancient British Isles and mainland Europe through the display of its objects.
Among the objects on display are a highly prized 6500-year-old jade axe and an elaborate gold neckpiece made around 4000 years ago.
Neolithic communities on the British Isles
In the late Neolithic, when Stonehenge was built, communities living in the British Isles appear to have been relatively insular. Although people were traveling widely and exchanging ideas from Orkney to Southern England, there was little or no communication with Europe.
By contrast, in the early Neolithic and early Bronze Age, mass migrations of people, including the first farmers and earliest metal-workers, arrived. During these times, objects, styles and religious beliefs were being shared widely with Europe.
Recent DNA analysis indicates that the Beaker culture communities who brought Bronze Age technology to the British Isles 4500 years ago, were part of a migration that almost completely replaced the communities of the British Isles in the course of a few centuries.
What the objects tell us about relationships with Europe
Making Connections opens with an exquisite jade axe, on loan from the British Museum. This represents early connections and shared ideas, beliefs and communication. The axe is made of stone sourced in the Italian Alps and was polished for hundreds of hours. It was brought to the British Isles from Europe about 1500 years before Stonehenge was built and was considered a treasured token connecting people back to their homelands.
The ensuing period of separation from Europe is represented by the Folkton Drums. These three chalk cylinders are decorated with spirals, lozenges and stylised faces and date from the late Neolithic period (c.3000BC).Found with the burial of a child in North Yorkshire, this style of decoration is known from objects across the British Isles but not further afield.
Susan Greaney, English Heritage Historian, said:
'From relatively insular communities with what appears to be little communication beyond the British Isles, to mass migrations and the sharing of raw materials and finished artifacts, our ancestors have been making and breaking relationships with Continental Europe for thousands of years.
'Throughout the Neolithic and Bronze Age, Stonehenge stood at the centre of this constantly changing ebb and flow of objects, styles, people and ideas.
'This exciting partnership with the British Museum has given us the opportunity to showcase these connections through some beautiful objects, displayed together for the first time at Stonehenge, which help to set the site in its wider European context.'
Neil Wilkin, British Museum Curator, said:
'To be able to bring all these objects together for the first time at Stonehenge, one of the most important symbols of ancient Britain, is an exciting prospect.
'The stories of Stonehenge and the British Museum are interwoven, and Stonehenge has formed an important part of the displays at the British Museum for as long as records and memory permits.
'Thanks to invaluable loans from Wiltshire Museum and Salisbury Museum it's also been possible to highlight the incredible depth of their collections for telling both local and international stories.'
Read more about the objects in the exhibition.
From Friday 26 October, join us at Stonehenge for a weekend of celebration and surprises.
Making Connections: Stonehenge in its Prehistoric World opens to the public on 12 October 2018 and will run until 21 April 2019. Admission is included in the Stonehenge ticket price.