Tag Archives: Bronze Age

Busyness subsided.

YaY! Whoop! <turns somersaults> I’ve finished mapping that finds-mountain from last year, only a week into the new season 🙂 Go me 😀

OK, so I still have a couple of bags of stuff to wash, and the PAS Finds Liaison Officer can expect another visit from me at some point, but I have largely finished with last year’s digging writeup.

My main site last year was a tale of Bronze Age settlement, and pre-enclosure paths, which has produced some amazing flints, again. Also, I was very surprised to see the paths bracketed by little clusters of thumb-scrapers – which clearly mark hut patterns; you don’t take a tool used only for preparing hides on a hunt. These paths were strip villages, 3,000 years ago! Bang go all my preconceptions about a violent, inward-looking society!

(There’s another lovely by-product of my metal detecting. I have a story about a boy learning to be a BA smith bubbling away in my head. I suspect I need to go on one of Will Lord’s fabulous bronze casting workshops to complete the research; but the story will come.)

My winter digging this year was mostly just across the valley from my summer site. There is an at least 3,000yo main N-S footpath, whose onward travel is unclear; I wanted to nail it down over the winter. Unfortunately, nothing conclusive came up; there were still three possible routes.

Then the shooting season finished, and I moved back across the valley, just to the North of where I finished last year. Bang! There’s my route; and the spring that people stopped at before crossing the stream. I can now trace the route another 3-4 miles northward – and a little further on, there’s that peculiar arc of fields that designates a Saxon settlement. Very satisfying when things come together like that! I shall have to see who owns those fields next winter, and see if they fancy a resident metal detectorist for a few months! I shall also have to set out my evidence for the local Archaeological Unit, I think it will be new evidence for them, or they might be able to add to it.

So now I’m happily engaged in building this year’s finds mountain 😀

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Filed under Archaeology, Detecting

Today’s archaeology news

My browsing this morning has brought me a super trio of archaeological items, that I thought I’d share with you!

In strict age order; some astonishing Neolithic finds in Ayia Varvara Asprokremnos, Cyprus – the most complete stone human figure ever found is very evocative, but you’d also be rewarded for scrolling down to the picture at the bottom. A casual throw-away is the piece of Neolithic jewellery they have a reproduction of. My image of Neolithic bling, what with recent tattoo articles, is getting a lot more colourful!

http://www.sci-news.com/archaeology/science-ayia-varvara-asprokremnos-01608.html

Next we move into the start of the Bronze Age in Bogota, with some write-up and some intriguing shots of the finds. Thank heavens for sharp-eyed construction workers!

http://www.ntd.tv/en/news/world/south-america/20131209/83760-discovery-of-3000yearold-village-halts-colombia-construction.html

And finally, part of my quest to develop my own bucket list of places my soon-to-be-e husband would never want to go to – a bit of Ancient Greek, and the city of Jerash in Jordan, possibly founded by Alexander the Great. Of course, there’s one or two other sites in Jordan too 😛

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerash

Such a wonderful world, across all its ages 😀

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British Museum trip – various viewpoints

I am attempting to organise the various aspects of my life, by using separate notebooks for archaeology/detecting and writing. The trip to the British Museum last Friday was a classic example of when that doesn’t work; too much crossover! I’ll try again here.

Having discovered that the BM is open until 8:30pm on Fridays – 6 glorious hours of wandering around one of the best museums in the world, for free, after a morning meeting – I shall have to repeat the experiment as often as possible 🙂

I am particularly worried ab0ut rivets at the moment; it’s too easy for something like a shield boss to deteriorate in our locally very acidic sandy soil, and for the copper alloy rivets to be the only remaining evidence. Plan A was to visit the Sutton Hoo exhibits (Room 2, ground floor), then go upstairs to rooms 49-51, Roman through Early Mediaeval, with a detector’s hat on. Look what Basil Brown achieved, with those beautifully laid-out rows! Unlike him, though, I get my rivets tumbled in plough soil, and so it’s important I know what I’m looking at, and I wanted to see the evolution of rivets through time.

Alas, to my eye, a rivet looks like a rivet looks like a rivet. Clearly this is my deficiency, because there is a whole (as ever, very expensive) textbook devoted to the subject; but there appears to be one design that hasn’t altered appreciably in 3,000 years. I’m just going to have to dump every rivet I find on the Portable Antiquities Scheme and let them sort them out 🙂

To recover from this set-back, I went to the cafe. There, I made the first error in notebook apartheid; I have a couple of pages of notes on the interaction between two young women, following on directly from the rivets. For some reason, they were sitting very still, hands in laps, with only their eyes animated; it struck me that it was a pose very proper to a pair of nuns, and the notes are around status and dominance games linked to eye size…

Then the organisation attempts failed again, as I wanted the larger writing notebook to take some sketches of buckles. I am now equally as worried about buckles as rivets; again, the design hasn’t changed appreciably since Saxon times. I got really into the detail of the Saxon workmanship; here are some notes in the writing notebook, so I don’t lose them!

  • A seax is about 10″ long, this one very crudely made at the cutting edge, but the flat edge decorated beautifully. It was a woman’s; would a man’s be different?
  • Pins for a woman’s veil were needle-fine. An actual needle was about 3″ long and thicker!
  • Bronze rings appeared in all sorts of contexts, from 1-3″ across (probably ought to be worried about them too)
  • 10 shallow silver bowls found at Sutton Hoo, for serving food; decoration is unique circular devices at bottom, cruciform arms patterned out. Bowls 9″ in diameter, 3″ deep. Lovely!
  • Small rings attached to the handle of a sword denote different allegiances
  • The wings of the bird on the helmet look like boars – which would make most of the major Celtic animals represented?
  • The roof height of a typical Saxon hall was 5m! 2 stories – not bad! Would mean that churches were not as impactful as I’ve been imagining.
  • Drinking cups were tiny, only a couple of inches high. Emphasises the difference between ale drinking for thirst and “serious” drinking…
  • Saxon sword bosses were quite small, but the Bronze Age ones were much bigger. Would be interesting to know how that affected function, and use of the boss itself as a striking weapon.
  • You can make a wire torc by wrapping the wire around a springy dogwood or alder twig – then burning away the wood to reveal the heart space inside the gold! I bet that was a magical, ceremonial moment.

Then the last note of the day was back in the detecting notebook – a comment on the changing representations of Christ over time. Pre 1100, the feel was around the strength, invulnerability and majesty of the Christ figure, even on the cross; after that date, there was a deliberate shift, by church policy, to images designed to invoke pity. That should definitely have been in the writing notebook, because presumably the shift was still happening in Wimer’s time – that’s a lovely subtle way of depicting a church, or an individual, as old-fashioned or following new-fangled ways!

Finally, I met up with an old friend, Terry Mummery, and (still thinking early mediaeval) asked his permission to share a lovely pic he took of St Eustace’s reliquary. I’m fascinated with reliquaries and the stunning beauty of the work involved, and this one is just after Wimer’s time, made in 1210. The BM writeup is here, but I prefer Terry’s photo – it gives you a much better idea of how attractive and pleasant the object is. With the skull fragments within, its approachability would make it such a powerful object to the Mediaeval mind – you could really feel like you were praying directly to the saint. I’ve also just noticed that the rivets holding the precious metal sheets together are the standard sort…

Eustace reliquary

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Knapping is MAGIC!

I have decided that I love knapping 🙂 Actually, even better – given my complete lack of 3D visualisation skills – that I love watching someone who knows what they’re doing, knap!

Yesterday, I watched in awe as Will Lord casually knocked out axe after axe after arrowhead; then very patiently went round and made tactful suggestions about the attempts we were making. He is a brilliant teacher, and it was a fascinating day; half-a-dozen of us sat around a wood fire, happily reducing great nodules of flint to rubble.

Will knocked out this absolute beauty in about 5 mins – photographed by my Olduvai Gorge handaxe for comparison:

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I completely failed in the hand-axe department. I tried three times; I could get to a certain point, then just couldn’t see the way to make the next platform to take the next slice off.

On a smaller scale, I was better. This picture shows my more successful attempts, with the hand axe as comparison! I’d actually get excited if I found the leaf arrowhead on a site; nicely Neolithic, lol! And the scraper’s over-elaborate for the Bronze Age, but that’s because I got carried away with how satisfying it was to nibble round 🙂

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The only problem was self-inflicted – the palm of my left hand is covered with tiny cuts, several of which bled – and then bled again this morning, when my karate lesson required me to slap my hand against a mat, repeatedly. I learn that, when you hit a flint nodule correctly, the flake comes off the bottom of the module. And catching it is inadvisable 🙂

So I shall have fun playing with the head-sized nodule Will sent me home with – as soon as I’ve found suitably thick gloves and leg-pad! And I’m already saving up to do the day again. Or maybe his bronze-casting workshop. Magic!

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Filed under Archaeology

Little orange berries :)

Today’s unexpected pleasure was to discover that a field I thought I’d wrapped up last week (archaeologically speaking) had been re-rolled and re-seeded – millions of little orange wheat berries everywhere 🙂

Not only do I get to play on it again for a few days, until this lot of berries sprout, but last night’s heavy rain had washed all the clay from the flints. The beet harvesting machinery has smashed quite a lot, but amongst the debris were half-a-dozen simply gorgeous scrapers and discoid knives.

This site is a good mile or so away from my main Bronze Age site, and these tools are very clearly different to the ones I’m finding over there. They still feel Bronze Age to me, but I can’t wait for the Archaeological Unit to have a look at them. Are they a different slice of BA? (It lasted for an awful long time.) Or maybe the styles are contemporary, and I have two different cultures going on side by side? Exciting!

The only downside of the day was the mud. Clay mud. The really clingy kind, that aggregates mercilessly on boots and spade. The metal detector was mostly decorative, best used for leaning on to schloop one boot then another out of the morass… Still, I’m claiming the time spent hauling all the mud around as stamina training for karate 😀

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