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Wiltshire Museum, Devizes

Photos of the weird and lovely 'grape cups' (aka incense cups) found in the region.
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
11th August 2020ce

Comments (8)

So very localised Rhiannon, and intricately designed for a special purpose. The burning of herbs? would there have been any trace of burning within the cups. I recalled the 'sun disc' on the Lansdown racecourse the other day. Ritualisation may be mocked but it is wise to look at some of the artefacts. moss Posted by moss
20th August 2020ce
They're really cute aren't they. Herbs definitely make sense with all those holes (any squidgy ointments would surely dribble out). And you're right I think about looking at the artifacts... they're where so many clues must lie. Your comment was making me look round the room at objects here and what they might 'say'.

I found someone's thesis about the small cups (presumably the equivalent) found across northern England inc. your neck of the woods. So much variation. There are even ones with lids from the Yorkshire Wolds. And 'fenestrated' ones with little long holes.
I think she's saying they were fired actually on the funeral pyre (p123). But a few are associated with burials too. And p191 says some researchers analysed 15 cups but couldn't find any organic traces in them. 15 isn't many. and I guess if the cups were used over such a long period of time, they might have become more symbolic than used to hold anything, but they could have held things to start with? She calls them 'enigmatic and delightful vessels' which is a good description!
Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
20th August 2020ce
I have to say that the museum itself is a great place to idle away a rainy afternoon. I found myself in there a couple of years ago and remember it being like a Tardis inside and the staff knowledgeable and helpful, they also gave me a personal tour of each room (I was the only one there!). A lot of it is aimed at younger visitors, however, suited me just fine. Very much worth a visit if in the area. Posted by costaexpress
20th August 2020ce
I agree! There's a lot of interesting things crammed in. And Devizes is nice to wander about too, with the canal, its big square, and a great Italian cafe! Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
21st August 2020ce
Thanks Rhiannon, "inc. your neck of the woods." Not far from here Slingsby barrows with a perforated cup, and then Spaunton Moor. The cups are much cruder up here but I suppose the Wessex Culture attracted better craftsmen. That PDF was so good but of course what was in the cups still needs a lot of work going on. I also like the theory of miniaturisation, or even toys as well. moss Posted by moss
21st August 2020ce
Hello Rhiannon, Moss and Costaexpress - am a little late on the uptake with this. I have just read the link and article (gratifyingly written by Archive and Library volunteer, Sara Morgan). Particularly liked this paragraph:

"It was found with the remains of a skeleton with the head towards the west, and according to Colt Hoare “a deposit of various elegant little trinkets”. These included amber pendants, shale beads including a double-axe bead, gold spherical beads, encrenites, and a richly decorated collared urn at the feet of the skeleton which perhaps contained a food offering. Some argue that assemblages of this type, with no weapon included, may indicate that the skeleton was of a woman. However, Cunnington always reinterred any skeletal remains he discovered, and in the absence of bones there can be no certainty about the sex of the person buried."

It always felt to me profoundly respectful that any excavated skeletal remains were reburied. It is time I paid another visit to the superb Wiltshire Museum - I am usually in Devizes once a week - for anyone who doesn't know it is currently open Thursday, Friday and Saturdays for pre-booked visits.
tjj Posted by tjj
21st August 2020ce
Hi Rhiannon, did visit the Wiltshire Museum today to have a look at the incense 'grape' cups - found in three different barrows. The ones that stood out for me were from the Preshute Barrow aka Manton Barrow and the Avebury Barrow (Windmill Hill). They seem to be associated with the burials of high ranking females as jewellery and other ceremonial artifacts also found. Thank you - a great way to spend time on a wet afternoon (loads more to see too). tjj Posted by tjj
27th August 2020ce
How lovely, Tjj! It's nicer to see these things in person. It's good to get out and about at the moment, and it's nice that the museum is already open. Making all those bobbles and sticking them on must have taken some effort and skill, so I'm not surprised if you're saying they were for posher burials. I would like to get back up on Windmill Hill sometime, I remember it being very Fresh. Rhiannon Posted by Rhiannon
28th August 2020ce
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