A gold-decorated Late Bronze Age spearhead and other artefacts uncovered during an Angus excavation have been hailed as “the find of a lifetime” reported the BBC earlier this year.

The weapon was discovered during an archaeological evaluation on land being developed into council football pitches at Balmachie in Carnoustie.

The spearhead was found beside a bronze sword, pin and scabbard fittings. It is one of only a handful of gold-decorated bronze spearheads ever found in Britain and Ireland.

The discovery was made in a pit close to a Late Bronze Age settlement that was excavated by GUARD Archaeology on behalf of Angus Council.

Internationally Significant Bronze Age Weapons

Carnoustie1 - Bronze Age WeaponsGUARD Archaeologists have recently recovered a very rare and internationally significant hoard of metalwork that is a major addition to Scottish Late Bronze Age archaeology.

A bronze spearhead decorated with gold was found alongside a bronze sword, pin and scabbard fittings in a pit close to a Bronze Age settlement excavated by a team of GUARD Archaeologists led by Alan Hunter Blair, on behalf of Angus Council in advance of their development of two football pitches at Carnoustie.

Each individual object in the hoard is significant but the presence of gold ornament on the spearhead makes this an exceptional group. Within Britain and Ireland, only a handful of such spearheads are known – among them a weapon hoard found in 1963 at Pyotdykes Farm to the west of Dundee. These two weapon hoards from Angus – found only a few kilometres apart – hint at the wealth of the local warrior society during the centuries around 1000-800 BC.

GUARD Archaeology’s project officer Alan Hunter Blair said:

“The earliest Celtic myths often highlight the reflectivity and brilliance of heroic weapons.

“Gold decoration was probably added to this bronze spearhead to exalt it both through the material’s rarity and its visual impact.”

Earliest Celtic myths highlight heroic weapons

The archaeologists said the rare survival of organic remains – a leather and wooden scabbard, fur skin around the spearhead, and textile around the pin and scabbard – made the find even more significant.

Mr Blair said:

“The hoard of artefacts, which are around 3,000 years old, is the find of a lifetime.

“It is very unusual to recover such artefacts in a modern archaeological excavation, which can reveal so much about the context of its burial.”

The excavation also revealed the largest Neolithic hall so far found in Scotland, dating from about 4000 BC.

Angus Council communities convener Donald Morrison said:

“It is clear that Carnoustie was as much a hive of activity in Neolithic times as it is now.

“The discoveries made on land destined for sporting development have given us a fascinating insight into our Angus forebears and I look forward to learning more about our local prehistory.”

There are two more aspects that elevate the Carnoustie discovery to international significance. The first aspect is the extremely rare survival of organic remains. A leather and wooden scabbard encased the Carnoustie sword and is probably the best preserved Late Bronze Age sword scabbard ever found in Britain. Fur skin survives around the spearhead, and textile around the pin and scabbard. Such organic remains rarely survive on dryland sites.

The second aspect is that the hoard is not an isolated find but was buried within a Late Bronze Age settlement, which means that once the excavation has been completed it will be possible to study the archaeological context of the hoard, revealing new insights into the local Bronze Age community that buried it. Not least of which was the longevity of settlement here. For the excavation has also revealed the largest Neolithic hall so far found in Scotland, a building dating to around 4000 BC and that may have been as old to the people who buried the weapon hoard, as they are to us.

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