Multiple artifact collections unearthed in the U.K. suggest that the earliest known museums could date to around 680 B.C. or even earlier. They force a rethinking of what museums are, and how certain ancient populations valued treasured objects.
Museums, by their definition, are institutions or organized groups that conserve a collection of artifacts.
Such a collection, now called the "Tisbury Hoard," was found in a field in Wiltshire, England.
"It contains around 114 bronze weapons, tools and ornaments, and was probably buried in the early Iron Age, in or towards the end of the seventh century B.C.," Dot Boughton, a researcher with the Portable Antiquities Scheme, wrote in a paper published in the latest issue of British Archaeology.
While the objects were buried simultaneously, they cover a span of 1,000 years.
At first this might appear to be some metalworker's sample kit, or an individual's private collection. But since multiple hoards of this nature featuring different types of objects have been found in key locations in the U.K., Boughton believes that the collections were "community museums."