A beautiful 2,000 year old Iron Age silver bowl, the earliest known silver bowl to have been hand-made in Britain, is the highlight of an enlightening, capsule exhibition, which is on view at Goldsmiths’ Hall during British Silver Week (May 9-13) and then until Saturday July 16.

The bowl, which fits in the palm of a hand (diameter  c. 110mm, height c. 48mm) provides new evidence of the tradition of the ancient Iron Age silversmith in Britain, a tradition previously unrecognised.  In a week which celebrates the talents and skills of modern silversmiths working in 21st century Britain, the bowl emphasises how important the ancient craft of silversmithing was and still is today.

Contemporary silversmith, Alex Brogden who lives and works in Sheffield, investigated the evidence of the tools and techniques used by the ancient Briton to make the silver bowl. He said: 'Examining and handling this ancient silver bowl was a fascinating and exhilarating experience. What made it so exciting was being able to literally feel and recognise the marks and techniques of the ancient silversmith and it was humbling to think that the fundamental skills of the silversmith have changed so little over the centuries.'

The bowl, together with Celtic and Roman coins and other extraordinary artefacts comes from the Hallaton Treasure, described by the British Museum as “a find of national significance”. The bowl was found together with two ingots and Celtic coinage at an open air shrine at Hallaton in Leicestershire.  The items are believed to have been buried during the last decade of the 1st century BC and the initial decades of the 1st century AD.  The Corieltavi bowl is so called after the Iron Age tribe of the same name who inhabited what is now modern day Leicestershire, Nottinghamshire, Staffordshire and Lincolnshire.

The discoveries, including more than 5,000 Celtic and Roman coins (a selection of which are included in the exhibition) all indicated that this site was a rare example of a purpose built open air shrine.  This was the realm of the Druids, the priesthood of Celtic religion.  A disparate group of other artefacts, aside from the bowl, ingots and coins, such as items of jewellery and the remains of a wooden statue all prove that the Hallaton site had remained a special place for ritual activity for hundreds of years and that everything placed in the ground had been done so deliberately as an offering to the gods with no intention of recovery.  The open air shrine at Hallaton is therefore unparalleled on a national level in terms of artefact recovery and the preservation of their original context.  As such the Corieltavi silver bowl is a thrilling and unique survival.

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