The Saltdean Bowl
By Mike Laslett
Many of Brighton & Hove’s archaeological treasures are held at Brighton Museum, safely stored in the Prince Regent’s wine cellars below the Royal Pavilion. One of the most beautiful from the Museum’s Iron Age collection is an object known as the Saltdean Bowl.
The Bowl's discovery
It was discovered on 6th May 1910 on the clifftops at Saltdean Gap, close to where the tunnel is today. It was found by twelve-year-old Edward Hales and his friend, fourteen-year-old George Wicks, both from Brighton, who then sold it on to the Museum in 1914.
The Bowl's location
About eighteen inches below the surface, cliff falls had exposed the beautiful urn you see illustrated. Such items are normally found as fragments and reconstructed like a jigsaw puzzle. Amazingly, the Saltdean Bowl was found undamaged, precisely as you see it here. At Brighton Museum, the Curator at the time, Herbert Toms, identified it as an Iron Age Cinerary urn containing both human remains and some pig bones, dating it to around 200 BC. The site disappeared in a further cliff fall the following December. On examination it is plain to see from the surface and the dimple on the base that it was crafted on a potter’s wheel. The design is extremely artistic and delicate for an object of this antiquity. A couple of years later, some Roman coins were washed out of the adjacent cliff so, while there is no proof, one may conjecture whether there may have been a small community living in Saltdean, spanning the late Iron Age and Early Romano-British periods. Most of Saltdean, with the exception of the old barns, dates from the Twentieth Century. Archaeological finds like the Saltdean Bowl reveal how humans have been active in the area for thousands of years. The bowl is now stored at Brighton Museum and I would like to thank Andy Maxted, Curator, who allowed me to inspect it.