St James's Park

Iron Age Britain

Hoards: The Snettisham Treasure

1st century BC, British Iron Age, Snettisham, Norfolk, England.

'Everyone will come to Valhalla with the riches he had with him upon the pyre, and with whatever he himself has buried in the earth.'

'The Snettisham Treasure is on display at the British Museum,' said Quintin. 'It was discovered in Norfolk, England over a period of some forty years during the late-twentieth century. A number of small pits were gradually uncovered near the village of Snettisham, all of them containing beautiful gold neck torques. Coins lying alongside these exquisite Iron Age fashion accessories date the buried hoard to the mid-first century BC. Curious is the fact that no sign exists of any Iron Age settlement nearby.'

'And this brilliant book on Celtic Art,' replied Miranda, 'says: A small hoard of ironwork from Waltham Abbey (Essex) included the tools of a blacksmith; those that could be broken had been deliberately smashed, presumably as part of a ritual, before the hoard was deposited in the river Lea.'

'So how shall we interpret this passage from Snorri Sturluson's Ynglinga Saga, written in the thirteenth century but recording mythological events from what was even then, antiquity?' replied Quintin. Thus [Odin] established by law that all dead men should be burned, and their belongings laid with them upon the pile, and the ashes be cast into the sea or buried in the earth. Thus, said he, everyone will come to Valhalla with the riches he had with him upon the pile [pyre] and he would also enjoy whatever he himself had buried in the earth.'

'Whatever he himself had buried in the earth,' Quintin repeated.

The Snettisham Iron Age hoards: Stead, Ian, 1985 reprinted 1996. Celtic Art: In Britain before the Roman Conquest. The British Museum Press. Chapter Three: Dress and jewellery, pp 47–51. Extract from Ynglinga Saga from: Snorri Sturluson, Heimskringla: Ynglinga Saga, translated by Samuel Laing, London, 1844. Chapter 8: Odin's Lawgiving.

See for yourself

Ynglinga Saga – Wikipedia

Ynglinga Saga – The Ynglinga Saga, or the story of the Yngling family from Odin to Halfdan the Black. From: Heimskringla, or The Chronicle of the Kings of Norway, by Snorri Sturlson (c.1179-1241) translated by Samuel Laing, London, 1844.

Torques – Wikipedia

Snettisham Hoard – Wikipedia

British Iron Age – Wikipedia

Celtic Art – British Museum Publication by Ian Stead, beautifully illustrated, unfortunately not now available from the British Museum website but well worth obtaining if you can


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part of a prehistoric stone circle
gold neck torc from the Snettisham Hoard treasure, British Museum

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