Cup & ring marks on the Gainford Stone

The tradition of collecting and displaying beautiful objects from the past has well established roots in our culture today. John and Joséphine Bowes, founders of The Bowes Museum, were avid collectors of fine and decorative art. Their collecting ranged from paintings and ceramics to furniture and textiles.

As well as this they also collected objects of archaeological significance. These objects illustrate the founders’ wish to provide visitors to their Museum with access to archaeological specimens from different cultures, and a fascination with understanding how people lived in the past.

The Museum has continued to collect archaeological objects from County Durham since the 1930s. The collection now includes local material ranging from prehistoric flints to medieval pottery and beyond.

The aim of the display in the first of The Streatlam Galleries is to highlight a number of objects to show their decorative and functional qualities; exploring what they can tell us about the past and to inspire visitors, young and old.

Star items in the display include important local objects such as a Roman Head Pot excavated from Piercebridge, a slab of prehistoric rock art known as the Gainford Stone, and Anglo-Saxon metal work from burials in Easington. Other wonders from further afield include a mummified hand from Ancient Egypt and Bronze Age Pottery from Cyprus.

This display is part of a new community project, Archaeology and the Arts in County Durham. The Bowes Museum acknowledges the assistance of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council through the North East Regional Museums Hub as part of the Renaissance programme, for funding the redisplay of the archaeology collections in this gallery.