Bronze Age weapons hoard found in Scotland

Archaeologists have discovered a hoard of Bronze Age weapons of international significance in Carnoustie, Angus, eastern Scotland. The property at Newton Farm was bought by the Angus Council last year with the stipulation that it be dedicated to community use. Because an earlier dig in the area in 2004 had found evidence of extensive prehistoric and medieval remains, the council also had to ensure the site was excavated to recover any archaeological remains before construction. GUARD Archaeology were contracted to excavate the site.

In a shallow pit, the team unearthed a bronze spearhead next to a bronze sword, a pin and scabbard fittings. Decorated with gold ornamentation, the bronze spearhead is an incredibly rare object. Only a handful of Bronze Age spears of this type have been found in Britain and Ireland. One of them was discovered in a weapons hoard in 1963 at a farm just miles away from Carnoustie, so that means that out of the few gold-decorated bronze spearheads known, two of them were found in Angus. This suggests the area had a significant a wealthy warrior class around 1000 B.C.

Since the bronze weapons are around 3,000 years old, the metalwork is very fragile. To ensure these delicate artifacts could be excavated with all necessary caution in a protected environment, the soil surrounding the pit was cut out and the entire 175-pound block was removed to the GUARD Archaeology Finds Lab. There conservators analyzed the block to develop an excavation plan that would safely preserve the finds.

These few seconds of video convey how painstaking the process of excavation was:

The en bloc excavation proved even wiser when organic remains were found in the hoard. The leather and wood scabbard, while broken into several fragments, is the best preserved Bronze Age scabbard ever discovered in Britain. Textile fragments were found around the pin and scabbard; fur around the spearhead. These kinds of materials almost never survive outside of waterlogged or arid environments.

Another great archaeological boon to this hoard is that it was unearthed within the confines of a Late Bronze Age settlement. It’s not isolated on the edge of a ploughed field where all we can find about the hoard’s history is in the hoard itself. It’s part of a much wider context. The team unearthed the remains of around 12 roundhouses, probably from the Bronze Age, and other large pits holding what appears to be refuse (broken pottery, lithics). About 650 artifacts were discovered from the Bronze Age settlement. Most of the finds give a date range of between 2200 and 800 B.C. for the Bronze Age occupation of the site.

There were people living there long before the Bronze Age, though. Archaeologists found the remains of two rectilinear structures dating to the Neolithic. The oldest dates to around 4000 B.C., and it too is a testament to the area’s prehistoric prominence. It’s the largest Neolithic hall ever found in Scotland. There is no clear evidence of continuous occupation, so the site could have been inhabited from the Stone Age through the Late Bronze Age, or successive settlements could have been built on the site with gaps of centuries between them.

The site is slated to be converted into two grass soccer fields, as per the community use requirement, and construction will begin at the end of the month. The excavation of the larger site will continue.

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5 Comments »

Comment by bill
2017-02-16 02:53:53

Any idea on the length of the sword? I’d like to make my own reproduction of it.

 
Comment by Daisy of Mullach a' Ghlinne
2017-02-16 03:45:30

Bill, it is two times the 25cm scale for the blade (50cm~20inch) plus maybe 12cm (4.7inch) for the handle. Bronze blades longer than 60cm might bend. Look at the swords found together with the ‘Nebra skydisk’ from around 1600 BC.

As you certainly know, ‘bronze’ is mainly a composition of copper and tin. The body of the blade of the ‘Sword of Goujian’, for example, is ‘mainly made of copper, making it more pliant and less likely to shatter; the edges have more tin content, making them harder and capable of retaining a sharper edge; the sulfur decreases the chance of tarnish in the patterns’.

When it comes to ‘steel’, however, there are roughly 2000 types and compositions.

:hattip:

 
Comment by bill
2017-02-16 04:22:43

If there’s a centimeter scale in the sword pic, it’s unreadable.

 
Comment by hoolit
2017-02-16 06:02:38

You should be able to zoom in on it once you’ve clicked on it. It’s a lovely high res image as Livius always manages to get for us :) . Although the ruler is whited out slightly I can still read the scale on my laptop and concur with what Daisy said (well maybe 11cm for the handle)

I’d love to see a reconstruction of the bronze spearhead. I would guess the gold means it was a ceremonial or status object rather than to be used in battle?

 
Comment by Virginia Burton
2017-02-16 06:43:25

I had the same problem until I tilted the angle of my laptop screen.

 
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