British and European

Detail of a carving

The British and European collection has a wide chronological span, from the Palaeolithic to the post-Medieval period. The four most important collection areas are the prehistoric stone tools, Celtic antiquities and Early Medieval ivories. Except for a small amount of material from 19th century excavations we do not have finds from the Merseyside area as these now form the Archaeology collections at the Museum of Liverpool|.

Prehistoric Stone Tools

The collection of several thousand prehistoric stone tools is mainly from sites in southern England and north-west Europe.

Celtic items

Celtic objects from the collection of Joseph Mayer of exceptional quality and importance are: the 'Mayer Mirror', the 'Mayer Spoon', the 'Ulceby Bit' and the 'Trawsfynydd Tankard'.

Byzantine, Late Antique and Early Medieval ivory carvings

The collection of carved ivory is internationally famous. 21 of the ivories are from Joseph Mayer's collection, some of which were formerly owned by Baron Fejérváry. In quality, if not in quantity, the Mayer ivories can only be compared to those of the British Museum (Maskell collection) and the Victorian and Albert Museum (Webb and Salting collections).

It is the equal of the great collections at Berlin and Milan, and is exceeded only by the unique riches of the Cabinet des Médailles in Paris. Another rare object is a 12th century candlestick made from the horn of a narwhal (arctic whale).

Other items

These include archaeological finds from the so-called 'Swiss Lake Villages' (settlements on the lake-side) dating from the Neolithic and Bronze Age. At the other end of the chronological spectrum there are some 300 pieces of armour, firearms and crossbows, many from the 16th and 17th century AD.