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news Exceptional Bronze Age gold find in Kent A Bronze Age gold cup has been discovered by a metal detectorist on Ringlemere Farm, near Sandwich. The cup had been squashed and split by a deep plough that dragged it from its original context to the edge of the barrow. There it was found by retired electrician Cliff Bradshaw, who had spotted the previously unrecognised flattened mound. He and two friends had been working the field's plough soil with their metal detectors for a few days, finding Anglo-Saxon metalwork that led Bradshaw to expect a cemetery. This suspicion was heightened when he recovered a sixth century button brooch. The next day he found the cup.

Bradshaw, a member of the Thanet Archaeological Society, reported the cup to archaeologists and Michael Lewis, then the local Portable Antiquities officer. English Heritage then carried out a geophysics survey which located the ring ditch of a ploughedout barrow. Keith Parfitt and the Canterbury Archaeological Trust were called in to carry out an excavation. No clear burial pit was found; the core of the mound had been badly disturbed by burrowing animals. Nor was there any sign of the postulated cemetery, despite the presence of the famous

Anglo-Saxon Coombe burial close by, and the Guilton Ash cemetery 1.75 kilometres to the north west.

The cup is similar to the famous Rillaton gold cup excavated in Cornwall in 1837, declared treasure trove, and then rediscovered among the possessions of George V: it is now in the British Museum. The Ringlemere cup is heavier than the Rillaton cup - it weighs 183.7 grams. It has a rounded base similar to the handled cups in shale (from Farway Down, Devon) and amber (Hove, Sussex): it is possible that George V flattened the base of the Cornish cup to facilitate its use as a collar stud holder. Immediately under the Ringlemere cup's flared rim is a row of dots punched from the outer surface, seen on the inside as small pimples. Below and on the base (which has a small omphalos) the surface is plain, while in between

Air photo of the excavation in progress at Ringlemere. Note the ring-ditch cropmarks of other round barrows adjacent. Photo: Mike Halliwell the gold has been skilfully corrugated. Three parallel ridges run on each side of the flat strap handle, which is attached at the top with four rivets and eight lozenge-shaped plates; the bottom is hidden in a fold of the squashed side.

Stuart Needham, the curator of European Bronze Age Antiquities at the British Museum, dates these cups to his Bronze Age period 4 (1700-1500 BC), by the association of the Rillaton cup with a Camerton-Snowshill dagger. He said the decision whether to restore the cup could be affected by the knowledge that the damage was not part of an ancient ritual. The excavation made it clear that a sub-soiler was responsible. It seems likely that the cup would have been destroyed had it not been found. A Treasure inquest will be held to determine the cup's future.•

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