- The 4,500 year old thin disc of gold is decorated with a cross and circle
- It is one of just six sun-discs to have been found in Britain and may have belonged to a chieftain of a tribe living in the area around Stonehenge
- The golden disc is one of the earliest known pieces of metalwork in Britain
- It was found in a burial mound at Monkton Farleigh in Wiltshire in 1947
One of the earliest known pieces of metalwork in Britain, found just a few miles from Stonehenge, has gone on display to the public for the first time.
The gold sun-disc, which was forged around 4,500 years ago at around the same time the main circle of Stonehenge was erected, was discovered in the Bronze Age burial mound of a local chieftain.
Thought to represent the sun, the thin sheet of embossed gold features a cross at the centre surrounded by a circle. Each is decorated with dots that glint in the sunlight.
The disc, which is one of only six sun disc found in Britain, may have once formed part of a headdress or garment.
Experts believe the disc, which is around two inches (5cm) wide, may have been made with gold imported to England from Ireland, where there is evidence that gold was being mined at the time.
However, new research has raised the prospect that it could be made of Cornish gold as rich deposits in the area were being exported to Ireland and elsewhere at the time.
The mysterious sun-disc, which was discovered alongside the remains of a skeleton of an adult male at a burial mound at Monkton Farleigh in 1947 , is now on public display for the first time at the Wiltshire Museum in Devizes, Wiltshire to mark the summer solstice.
David Dawson, director of the Wiltshire Museum, said: 'This is an incredibly important object as it was one of the earliest pieces of metal to appear in Britain.
'Gold is precious to us, but to people at the time they had not seen metal at all and it would have been completely new and something far out of their experience.
'We think it was owned by a local chieftain and was buried with him when he died. His family clearly valued it enough to put it into his grave so he could carry it with him to the afterlife.'
The discovery of the sun-disc in the grave at Monkton Farleigh has helped to shed light not only on the wealth of people living at the time but also their relationship with death.
Sun worship is thought to have been common in the early bronze age and the highly reflective golden metal disk would have had special significance in that culture.
Stonehenge has long been associated with the sun as many of the stones appear to be aligned with phases of the sun.
Thousands of people still descend on the ancient monument each year to watch the sun rise on the summer solstice.
At the time when the sun-disc found at Monkton Farleigh was made, the sarsen stones at Stonehenge had just been erected.
Read the full story here:
The Stonehenge Tourist Guide