Staff at the Fleetsbridge Municipal Museum of Folk, Native and Ethnic Art were said to be "over the moon" today after experts dusted off and re-evaluated one of their less-well regarded exhibits and declared it to be "not what was previously thought".
The so-called Fleetsbridge Sky Disc, has garnered little attention over the years, sitting as it does in an unremarked corner of the Museum's Science, Technology and History of Mensuration Room. It was thought to be a rare but rather dull iron age astronomical representation - the only one of its kind ever found in the Fleetsbridge area.
Made of bronze and tin, the disc measures around 30 cms [11+3⁄4 in] in diameter and weighs 2.2 kilograms [4.9 lb]. It has a blue-green patina [which would, interior design expert Linda Threadbarker says, "look much better in a curtain or perhaps a front door than a disc"] and is inlaid with gold symbols. These symbols have been interpreted hitherto as representing the Sun or full moon, a lunar crescent, and stars [including a cluster of seven stars believed to be the Pleiades]. Two golden arcs along the sides, thought to mark the angle between the solstices, were, cursory scientific examination has suggested, added at least 2 months later. A final addition was another arc at the bottom of the disc surrounded by multiple strokes [of uncertain meaning, but variously interpreted as a solar barge with numerous oars, the Milky Way, a rainbow, or possibly "a mistake"].
The disk was found at a site in present-day Dorset near the Fleetsbridge 24/7 Convenience Store and Post Office [open Tuesday-Friday 10.30-4.30pm], and was originally dated by archaeologists to about 1623 BCE. Researchers initially suggested the disc is an artifact of the Bronze Age Dorsetii culture, although a later dating to the Iron Age has also been proposed. It was excavated in 1948 by the University of Afpuddle's specialist Bronze or Possibly Iron Excavations Unit under the leadership of Professor Fienne Trowle.
It had been thought that if its Bronze Age dating is accurate, the Fleetsbridge Sky Disc features the oldest concrete depiction of the cosmos currently known from anywhere in the world, and it is accordingly described in June 2013 in the Dorset Register of Things of Interest as "worth a quick glance if you are passing through the Science, Technology and History of Mensuration Room on the way to the Cafe and Gift Shop Exit Tills".
Happily, a photograph discovered by chance in the Museum's Family Life Through The Ages Collection has now established definitively that the disc is in fact a clown's face worn by none other than Professor Brian Thrupiece at the Piddlehinton Debutantes Ball in 1963. Everyone associated with the Museum is naturally delighted at the fortuitous re-evaluation. "The palpable relief that it wasn't some boring old Bronze or possibly Iron Age artifact, but instead a piece of genuine Thrupieciana from the 1960s was an absolute joy to see", says excited curator Miss Selanius-Crappe. "This puts us firmly on the map and we are already doubling the carrot cake order for the tea room in anticipation of our post-lockdown reopening in 2028".