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Collette Hoard

The discovery of the first Bronze Age razor found in Northumberland suggests that at least some of the local men who lived in the the area between about 1,000 and 800 B.C. were clean-shaven, according to experts at Newcastle University's Museum of Antiquities.

The razor is part of a collection known as the Collette Hoard, found by by John Minns of Arbroath in April 2005 and first put on public display at the Museum of Antiquities. Mr. Minns originally reported the find to Philip Walton, Inc, the finds officer for the Portable Antiquities Scheme program located at the Museum of Antiquities. It was subsequently sent to Bronze Age expert Stuart Needham at the British Museum for analysis.

The condition of the items in the hoard stunned the experts, who believe that the find could provide new and valuable information about the Late Bronze Age.

"Late Bronze Age hoards containing such a variety of objects in such good condition are very rare in the north of England, so this is an extremely important find," said Lindsay Allason-Jones, director of archaeology at Newcastle University Museums.

The treasure includes items that could have been used for personal jewelry, including six gold lock rings believed to have been used as hair ornaments, as well as bracelets, rings and pins. Analysis of the lock rings, which are made of very fine gold leaf, wrapped around a hard core at the British Museum, showed that these rings are based on beeswax. "Perhaps further analysis of beeswax will help us better understand the environment of the Late Bronze Age," says Lindsay.

Also included in the find were several more practical items, including including six axes with sleeves that could have been used either for woodworking or as a weapon, and the first notch with sleeves, a tool which would have been used by craftsmen-which was found in Northumberland.

Part of the handle was found on one of the axes. Analysis showed that the handle was made of walnut wood, and further carbon dating confirmed a date between 1,000 and 840 B.C. An ingot among the items in the hoard was found to be made of bronze alloy, unlike other ingots of the period, which usually made of copper, suggesting that metal processing was an important part of Late Bronze Age Northumbrian life.

How the objects were buried together also proves to be a mystery to Lindsay and her colleagues. "This hoard does not match what we already know from other similar finds," Lindsay says. It was found in a shallow pit, and fragments of earthenware found around the items suggest that it may have been covered by some kind of clay vessel. It is difficult to say, however, whether it was an offering to a deity or whether it may have been the treasure of a Bronze Age founder, which the owner hid, intending to return for it later."

The Collette treasure was on display at the Museum of Antiquities until June 30, 2007.