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Harborough Museum

The Shrine

The Shrine

The Treasure was found in an Iron Age shrine dating from around 50 BC through to the Roman invasion of AD 43. Archaeologists believe that the site is a type of open air shrine that is the first of its kind to have been discovered in the UK. It was located on a hilltop and was probably enclosed by a ditch with a palisade to one side.

No building was discovered inside the enclosure and archaeologists believe that people were worshipping some natural feature – trees, stones or perhaps even wooden idols.

The shrine was witness to a lot of activity from the turn of the 1st century AD until the time of the Roman invasion. Worshippers were burying their riches, feasting and sacrificing.

A graphic of Romans on a snowy hill

The Romans arrive

The Roman invasion began in AD 43. It took them several years to reach the East Midlands and it is likely that the feasting, the sacrifice of the precious metals and coins were all in response to the dramatic events that were unfolding. After the Romans settled in the area, the Hallaton shrine fell into disuse.

Graphic of a ditch

Silver and dog burial

Around AD 1 – 30 a dog was buried in the entrance to the shrine to spiritually protect the site. Around the same time some silver objects and a hoard of coins were buried in the base of the enclosure ditch.

Graphic of an enclosure

The enclosure

From around 50 BC people were coming to the Hallaton shrine to offer sacrifices to their gods in the form of jewellery and coins. The shrine was in an area that had had a ritual significance for thousands of years.

Graphic of feasting


Pork was deliberately chosen for feasts as the Iron Age Britons associated it with status, wealth and warriors. A tankard handle was also found amongst the bones, evidence that people were sharing ale or mead.

Graphic of a wooden fence

The palisade

The Palisade Archaeologists believe that a palisade was built on the east facing side some time after the burial of the silver objects. The east-west alignment is important in Iron Age mythology.

Graphic of some people by a fire


Archaeologists found thousands of pig bones a few yards in front of the shrine’s entrance. It seems that hundreds of people were gathering to feast, perhaps yearly, during the AD 30s. Judging by the age of the pigs when they died it is likely that the feasting occurred during the winter months.

Graphic of someone by a hole

Coin burial

Coin hoards were found buried all over the site but the majority were found in the entranceway, buried in the AD 30s, 40s or even as late as the 50s, probably over a number of years. They may be the gifts of a few rich nobles or the collected wealth of whole communities – we will probably never know for sure.

Graphic of someone with the helmet

Helmet burial

Archaeologists believe that one of the last things to be buried at the site was the Roman cavalry parade helmet, probably during the AD 50s and well into the time of the Roman invasion.

Graphic of two peple with the helmet

Why was it buried

Why a Roman helmet was buried on a British site is a real mystery. It must have been buried by a Briton but was it a diplomatic gift, battlefield plunder or was it even the helmet of a Briton who had served in the Roman cavalry?

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Address: The Symington Building, Adam and Eve Street, Market Harborough, LE16 7LT (Car Park: LE16 7XA)

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