Rillaton cup named as one of Britain's top ten treasures.
A 3,000 year-old gold cup found on Bodmin Moor - and once used by King George V as a handy pot for his collar studs - has been named as one of Britain's top ten treasures.
The Bronze Age Rillaton cup was discovered by workmen in 1837 in a burial cairn near Minions.
Searching for stone they stumbled across a vault, or cist, in which they found human remains, the gold cup, a sword, dagger and glass beads.
Such was the importance of the find that experts at the British Museum have now classified it as the 10th most important historical find ever made.
Jacky Nowakowski, a senior archaeologist with the Cornwall Archaeological Unit, said: "The Rillaton Cup is very important because it is a unique object and since the discovery of the Ringlemere Cup in Kent just over a year ago, interest has been renewed in it.
After the workmen's surprise discovery the artefacts were sent as Duchy treasure trove to William IV, who reigned from 1831 to 1837.
Despite their significance, they then fell into obscurity among the royal possessions, only to be picked out by King George V in the early 20th century as a handy container for his collar-studs.
It remained in that service until shortly after the King's death, at which point its true identity and importance were re-established and it was placed in the British Museum.
Little is known about how the round-bottomed cup, which stands just 8cms high, was buried or where the gold was mined.
But what is clear is that the valuable item was interred with someone of great wealth and power.
Jacky said: "It was a great period of monument building, the early stages of Stone Henge were constructed in the Bronze Age and a lot of investment was made in building large barrows, stone circles and henges.
"In Cornwall, exactly the same thing was going on and people were using these monuments to make a statement about their position."
Over the next three months the Ringlemere Cup is on temporary display alongside the Rillaton Cup while the British Museum raises funds to acquire it.
Posted by phil
9th January 2003ce
Edited 22nd May 2003ce