Monday, 10 December 2012

An Iron Age Weekend

Hello everyone, I was away for the weekend and had posts all set-up ready to go live by themselves, but technology failed here they are!

December 8th

War, Peace or Other

Today we have an artefact that almost always immediately shouts of war....

Image taken from Shropshire Council
It's the Jackfield Sword, found in the River Severn, near Telford in the 1970's.  The sword dates to the Early Iron Age and is a relatively rare find, made of bronze.  The sword is leaf shaped and in beautiful condition considering it's age.  The hilt is missing, but the fittings are in place, suggesting that it was made of organic material.  It is likely that the wood or bone would have been carved in order to enhance the aesthetic appeal of the sword.  During the Early Iron Age there is little evidence for warfare and the deposition of this sword in a river furthers such notions.  It is one of a number of bronze and iron artefacts that have been found in watery deposits and as such it is believed that they have a ritual significance, potentially relating to a lost cosmology.  It is often said that ritual is used by archaeologists as a means to avoid artefacts and sites that do not fit into our plans, however, there surely had to be a level of belief and tradition.  It features in cultures all over the world, so why not in prehistory?
December 9th
Today is the turn of something a little bit different....

Image taken from Portable Antiquities Scheme
It is the beautiful Tanworth Comb, discovered in Warwickshire, 2006.  Finds like this traditionally would be lost to the record, until the Portable Antiquities Scheme came to being.  This comb is a metal detecting find and its' finder did the right thing in taking it for study and identification.  It is dated to the very end of the Iron Age or very early Roman Period.  The comb is made of copper alloy, with both the front and back decorated with a detailed pattern.  Through study it has been determined that the decoration was cast rather than added after the creation process.  The teeth of the comb are fairly wide apart which suggests that it was not meant for human hair, but, instead it may be for the grooming of animals such as horses.  This is another rare find and serves as a perfect example of what can happen when the world of archaeology and the metal detectoring enthusiasts come together.  It also featured on Britain's Secret Treasures, Summer 2012.


  1. " and its' finder did the right thing in taking it for study and identification".

    Whilst this is to be applauded, your comment suggests that some would not do the "right thing".How many artefacts - part of the heritage of the nation - end up in auction houses or Ebay? The PAS is to be applauded for the work it has done but is not a solution to the pillaging of sites and the loss of evidence.

  2. Unfortunatly as sites like Ebay highlight there are many people who do not do the right thing, otherwise their finds would not be posted there for sale. Sadly people from all over the world buy these items which makes it all worth their while. None are more guilty than museums for buying at auction houses. I am not saying that the PAS is the solution but it is a step in the right direction, I do not believe that we will ever end Heritage Crime. Where the PAS come into their own is to provide an outlet enthusists and chance finders alike to have their finds added to our ever expanding record.