provided by the Rillaton gold cup, recovered
from an Early Bronze Age cairn on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall during
the nineteenth century (Smirke 1867; Needham 2000). The vessel
from Ringlemere was discovered on a low, but quite distinct,
rise in the middle of the field, which had every appearance of
being a previously unknown round barrow. With only the Rillaton
vessel in Britain and four or five more parallels in gold on the
Continent, it quickly became clear that the Ringlemere cup was
of both national and international importance.
A Steering Group, consisting of a partnership of
local and national archaeological organisations, was brought
together to consider an appropriate response to the discovery
and it was soon agreed that the find-spot required detailed
investigation. Accordingly, an initial programme of
field-walking, metal-detecting and geophysical survey, followed
by excavation was organised (Parfitt 2003), and from this has
evolved the Ringlemere Ancient Landscape Project, led by the
Canterbury Archaeological Trust. The full excavation of the
monument producing the gold cup was made a collaborative project
between the Trust and the British Museum and excavations on this
site were completed in the summer of 2006, with the support of
the KAS, amongst other bodies.
Ringlemere lies some 3.75km west of Sandwich, in
the parish of Woodnesborough, about 1.5km west of the parish
church, NGR TR 2938 5698 (Figs 1 and 2). Ringlemere Farm
is some 400m to the south-east, with Black Pond Farm on Fleming
Road 150m to the south-west (Fig. 2). The mound is situated at
an elevation of between 10 and 13m above OD and in subsequent
fieldwork has been designated Monument (M)1.
The Gold Cup
The image presented by the Ringlemere cup is
striking, partly because of the obvious quality of the original
workmanship, but also because of the severe crumpling it has
recently suffered from agricultural machinery (Plate I). No
physical restoration of the cup has been attempted because of
concern that opening the severe buckles might alter the ancient
metal structure. However, close inspection of the original,
together with a virtual restoration by computer, has revealed
the original shape of the vessel. By analogy with other Bronze
Age cups made from precious materials and fresh consideration of
their associations a date of around 1950-1700 BC may be
As restored, the Ringlemere cup would have stood
about 124mm tall (Needham et al. 2006; Fig. 3).
The body of the vessel has all been raised out of a single piece
of gold, the handle is a separate piece of sheet metal attached
top and bottom by four rivets passing through tab extensions.
Starting at the base, there is a small, neat omphalos [dimple].