The Silchester Eagle from Roman Calleva, immortalized by Rosemary Sutcliff in her children’s book The Eagle of the Ninth
The archaeological collection spans many millennia, reflecting the changing lifestyles of the people who have lived in the area.
In the Museum, archaeology includes any artefact dating before 1700AD and anything of any age found buried, from flint and stone tools up to 200,000 years old, to mineral water bottles bearing the names of twentieth century Reading businesses.
Objects dredged from the Thames, including Bronze Age weapons, now form the Thames Water Collection, and we have a fine collection of worked stone from Reading Abbey. Some objects came from the collections of local antiquarians like George Smith, a Reading bank manager, who apparently ran to gravel pits in his lunchtime to collect any handaxes that had been discovered! His whole collection and his notebooks came into the Museum in 1945.
The Silchester Collection came from the Roman town of Calleva, near Silchester in Hampshire. Most of the items were excavated between 1890 and 1909. They are accompanied by almost 600 photographs of the excavations, a rare insight into early archaeological techniques. High quality objects from elsewhere in the ancient world, particularly Greece and Egypt, also form a significant part of the Museum's archaeology collections.
The collection contains significant objects that have been symbols of power and wealth for centuries, including two Bronze Age gold torcs found at Moulsford, a hoard of Iron Age gold coins found near Bracknell and a gold ring given by King Henry VIII to Richard Warde.
The archaeological story is constantly revised as research suggests new interpretations of objects. Our archaeology collections and contribute to our understanding of the lives of our ancestors. Browse these pages to find out more about life at Reading Abbey and at Roman Silchester.