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I'm interested in this new gold cup that's been found.

01:00 Mon 15th Apr 2002 |

A.I think you mean old gold cup. The Bronze Age vessel, dating from the same time as Stonehenge, was been unearthed in a cornfield at Woodnesborough, near Sandwich, in Kent. That makes it between 3,500 and 3,700 years old. It is now known as the Ringlemere cup, named after the farm where Cliff Bradshaw, an amateur archaeologist, found it.< xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />

Q.Amazing! It's the first of its kind

A.No - a very similar drinking vessel, the Rillaton gold cup, was discovered in Cornwall in 1837. The Ringlemere cup, which is 6in high and 4in in diameter, was beaten from a sheet of 20-carat gold and has an embossed design of extraordinary craftsmanship.

That makes it one of the earliest treasures found in England - predating the burial site at Sutton Hoo, Suffolk, by more than 2,500 years. (Click here for a feature on Sutton Hoo).

Q.It was found in open ground

A.No. It was in an ancient barrow, which indicates it was owned by the Bronze Age chieftain buried there. The rest of the barrow, which includes six graves in a 115ft circle, is being excavated by English Heritage.

Experts say the cup will cast new light on British civilisation more than 1,500 years before the arrival of the Romans.

Q.What else does has been found in the grave

A.Bone fragments, possibly human, with flint tools and pottery show the site had been inhabited since 5000BC. The cup, and its owner, were buried there between 1700BC and 1500BC.

David Miles, chief archaeologist at English Nature, said: 'This is a very sophisticated piece of metalwork. It is the mark of an advanced society that had developed some very precise skills. It is very nicely made, with an elaborate rippled effect from the beating process. It must have been owned by someone of the highest status.'

Q.Solid gold

A.It's 80% gold with about 10% silver plus other metals such as copper. It is similar in design to the Rillaton cup, with broad handles attached by rivets and lozenge-shaped washers, but bigger. It is also slightly damaged, with one side crushed, probably recently by a plough.

Q.And who owns this wonderful treasure

A.Its future will be decided by a coroner's inquest. If it is declared treasure trove, it will be valued and the British Museum will have the chance to buy it, with the proceeds split between the landowner and Mr Bradshaw, the man who found it.

Q.How did he find it

A.Mr Bradshaw, 69, a retired electrician, was out using his metal detector on 4 November last year. He was looking for artefacts and had already found a Saxon ring brooch. The cup was about 18 inches down.

'Another half an inch and I wouldn't have detected it,' he said. 'I picked it up and scraped a pile of mud off with my boot and it was the most fantastic thing you could imagine. I saw a lot of gold gleaming at me. It was heart-stopping. I didn't think it was Saxon but I knew it was beautiful and I knew it was gold.'

Q.What's it worth

A.To historians ... it's priceless. To those interested in money ... at least �250,000.

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Steve Cunningham

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