The Aldbourne Cup is an early Bronze Age (Wessex Culture) cup with a lid, dating from c.1700-1500BC. It was discovered by Canon William Greenwell when he visited Aldbourne in 1878 and 1879 and excavated a number of the Bronze Age barrows in the parish. Both the cup and the lid are finely decorated inside and out with patterns such as chevrons, diamonds and triangles. Alternate shapes are filled with pointillé (stippled) decoration.
The Aldbourne Cup was almost certainly used as an accessory to the cremation at the barrow in which it was discovered, and it is generally thought that it was used to contain material such as incense, as part of the ancient cremation ceremony.
Because of its quality, the Aldbourne Cup has become the exemplar for all similar cups – there are several, all of them found in Wiltshire and the immediately surrounding area – which are now routinely referred to as ‘Aldbourne Cups’, irrespective of where or when they were found.
The Aldbourne Cup was reconstructed at the British Museum in the late 19th century from the separate pieces that were excavated at the time. The Cup as reconstructed and restored is now on permanent display in Gallery 51 in the British Museum.
We own two replicas of the Cup, one as it was when created (left in the photo above), and one as it is now (right in the photo above). These are on display at the centre.