Little Thetford flesh-hook

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Little Thetford flesh hook
Little Thetford flesh-hook
Material Bronze
Size Hooked part length:12 in (30 cm) weight:9 oz (255 g)
Butt end length:6 in (15 cm) weight:4 oz (113 g)
Created late Bronze-age
(1150 – 950 BC)[1]
Discovered 1929, Little Thetford
Present location British Museum
Identification CHER 06956

The Little Thetford flesh-hook is a late Bronze-age (1150 – 950 BC) artefact discovered in 1929 in Little Thetford, near Ely, Cambridgeshire, England. A flesh-hook is a metal hook with a long handle used to pull meat out of a pot or hides out of tan-pits. This particular find is one of 32 other such archaeologically significant finds, scatters, and excavations within 1 square mile (2.6 km2) of Little Thetford.


The artefact was found by a Mr. Dresser, whilst digging a ditch on reclaimed fenland, at Little Thetford in 1929. Discovered about 9 feet (2.7 m) down, it consisted of two-parts, connected by the remains of a wooden shaft. The wood remains have not survived; a contemporary wooden shaft has been added by the British Museum for display purposes. The artefact is in the British Museum though is not, as of 2012, on display.[2] Within 1 square mile (2.6 km2) of Little Thetford, there have been 33 finds of various kinds over the years,[3] such as flints[4] from the Neolithic era through to a windmill[5] of the late Medieval period.


The word flesh-hook is relatively modern. The OED gives the origin of the word as 1325 AD, and defines it as a metal hook with a long stail,[6] used to pull hides out of tan-pits or as a hook for pulling meat from the pot.[7] It may also have been used as a tool to prod animals.[8] The use of this flesh-hook in the Bronze-age can only be speculated.


The metal used in the construction is a bronze alloy, found to be typical of the late Bronze-age. The material was analysed using ICP – AES and contained (approximately) 85% copper, 10% tin, 3% lead, and 2% impurities; although the constituents of the individual parts varied around these figures.[9] From an analysis of 36 other Bronze-age flesh-hooks known to be in existence,[10] the assembled length of hook-part, butt-end, and missing wood part is speculated to be 2.5 feet (0.76 m).[9]

The artefact was manufactured by casting, using a mould in a lost-wax (cire perdue) process.[9]


See also: Prehistory

The British Museum dates the artefact within the Bronze Age 1150 – 950 BC.[1] The Cambridgeshire Historic Environment Record database dates the artefact as late Bronze-age 1000–701 BC.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "flesh-hook". The British Museum. 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  2. ^ a b Bowman, S. "Late Bronze Age flesh hook, Little Thetford". Cambridgeshire HER. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  3. ^ "Heritage Gateway home". Cambridgeshire HER. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  4. ^ Ely Museum (1984). "Neolithic polished flint axe, Little Thetford". Cambridgeshire HER. Retrieved 26 June 2010. 
  5. ^ Hughes, H C. "Late Medieval windmill". Cambridgeshire HER. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  6. ^ A handle, esp. a long slender handle, as the handle of a rake, etc. "Oxford English Dictionary: 'Stail'". Oxford University Press. 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  7. ^ "Oxford English Dictionary: 'flesh-hook". Oxford University Press. 2010. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  8. ^ "A guide to the Antinquities of London: Bronze flesh-hook". The British Museum. 1920. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 
  9. ^ a b c Bowman, S. "The Dunaverney and Little Thetford flesh-hooks: history, technology and their position within the later bronze age atlantic zone feasting complex". The Antiquarian Journal (Society of Antiquaries of London) 87: 53 – 108. Retrieved 27 June 2010.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help)
  10. ^ Needham, Stuart; Sheridan Bowman. "Flesh-Hooks, Technological Complexity and the Atlantic bronze Age Feasting Complex". European Journal of Archaeology. doi:10.1177/1461957105066936. Retrieved 27 June 2010. 

External links[edit]

This article is about an item held in the British Museum. The object reference is 1929,0415.1.