Finds Through The Ages – The Iron Age in Berkshire (c 800 BC – AD 43).

Iron Age Britain marked an era of iron tools and weapons, and the existence of tribal based societies. The tribes in Southern Britain included:

  • Atrebates
  • Belgae
  • Cantiaci
  • Catuvellauni
  • Dobunni
  • Dumnonii, and sub-tribe Cornovii
  • Durotriges
  • Regnenses
  • Trinovantes
  • Iceni

These tribes produced the coinage of this period which are organized by geographical region.  Two examples are included below with a gold stater and silver unit found in East Berkshire. Traditionally, the end of the Iron Age was considered to be at the time of the arrival of the Romans into Southern Britain in AD 43.

Even though the Iron Age dates back to around 800 BC there doesn’t seem to be any objects recorded from Berkshire at the earlier end of this period. Many of the artefacts are dated to the crossover period between the Late Iron Age to Early Roman.

 

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

One of the earliest artefacts from the Iron Age found in Berkshire dates to c. 400 BC – c. 200 BC and takes the form of this incomplete copper alloy La Tene I type brooch. The brooch is missing its pin but consists of a D-shaped bow, two springs around a fragment of the axis bar, and the foot. This was found in Hampstead Norreys, West Berkshire. There are a few other La Tene type brooches also recorded from this period but not many, and none as complete as this example.

 

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

 

This rare find is another form of brooch of an unusual style with very few parallels to other forms of brooches. This is a rare Middle Iron age Adams Type 2Bb2 (2013) found in Welford, West Berkshire. It dates to c. 300 BC – c. 100 BC. The brooch is in the shape of a cross, made up of four circular domed knops arranged around a slightly larger central domed knop. Amazingly the pin is still in place and is mounted onto a simple bar that swivels between two small protruding lugs pierced to take the bar.  A very similar brooch was found in Boxford, West Berkshire but without its pin, with visible corded collars and is of the same type as the above (see BERK-4451E9). There are a few other hollow domed type brooches which fall under this category which appears to be concentrated on the West Berkshire / Vale of the White Horse (Oxfordshire) border over the Ridgeway and may indicate a local source. Hence they have also been named the ‘Vale brooch’. (See BERK-D83302, BERK-9343A6).

 

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

Next we have this incomplete anthropomorphic copper alloy figurine which is a rare and unusual find. It is crudely cast in the form of a possible male figure with raised arms. It was found in East Garston, West Berkshire and dates to the Late Iron Age, c. 200 BC – c. AD 43. The surviving right arm terminates in a loop; presumably the figure held something like a rod through its ‘hand’, although like the rest of the body there is no anatomic detail. The figurine has been noted to share characteristics with examples from the Continent as well as several heads and busts of Iron Age Britain, however, it is not clear what this may have been used for and further research is suggested!

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

 

In Aldermaston, West Berkshire we have this double lunate strap fitting, again a very rare find of note and of regional importance! This dates to the Late Iron Age, c. 100 BC – AD 43. The central body takes the form of two crescent shaped attachments both with a central circular aperture.

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

‘Fob Danglers’ are often seen on the PAS database but their exact function is unclear. They may have been hung from items of equipment, personal apparel or harness decoration (Jope 2000, pp 285). When complete most appear to be of Triskele form. Jope (ibid.). This particular example found in Streatley, West Berkshire dates to c. 50 BC – AD 100 and takes the form of a spiral of four arms emanating from a central aperture. Each arm has a seated bird attached to the terminals. The front face is decorated with punched ring and dots. For more information click on the image.

Our next three objects come from East Berkshire:

 

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

This beautifully crafted and decorated harness fitting or cheek-piece found in the Windsor and Maidenhead area dates to c. AD 1 – c. AD 100. It is made of copper alloy and on one side is decorated with an inlaid symmetrical curvilinear design. Traces of red enamel are visible in these inlaid cells. For more information on this type of enamelled harness fitting click on the image.

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

And now we move on to possibly one of the oldest gold staters’ recorded from Berkshire! This early uninscribed ‘A’ gold Westerham type, Allen British type A, South Eastern, was found in the Wokingham district and dates to c. 175 BC – c. 50 BC. Obverse description: Head right (profile a), above line e, crossed by leaf l and triplets m, below misc. w. Reverse description: Horse left, exergual line k above 9 pellets, above tail wheel a, below pellet.

 

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

 

This silver unit is unique to Berkshire as it is a unit of the North Thames region / Catuvellauni, possibly of Tasciovanus Berkshire Wreath type! It dates to c.25 BCAD 10. The Obverse depicts a crude laureate head right, [T]AS in front, and the reverse depicts a horse stepping left, VIR above. Found in Cox Green, East Berkshire, it was possibly produce in the area. This is a find of note and has been designated: For inclusion in British Numismatic Journal ‘Coin Register.’

 

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

Speaking of oldest coins on the database, our final example is still possibly one of the earliest single denarius recorded on the PAS database! This silver Roman Republican denarius in excellent condition. It dates to 207 BC, and was minted in Rome. The obverse depicts the Head of Roma, and the reverse depicts the galloping Dioscuri and crescent. RRC 57/2.

There are some Iron Age coin hoards recorded from Berkshire. However, this may be explored at a later date!

 

Finds Through The Ages – The Bronze Age in Berkshire (c. 2500- c. 800 BC).

This week we mainly look at gold objects from the Bronze Age found in Berkshire, plus a copper alloy flat axehead, and spearhead. There are 42 recorded objects from this period found in West Berkshire, with only 13 recorded from East Berkshire.

Now we start to see a wider variety of objects coming through as expected due to the changing technologies and materials used. The most frequent object recorded on the PAS database is the copper alloy socketed axehead with 1,284 reported to date, followed closely by the lithic scraper tool at 1,054 records. Additionally we see a remarkable 412 hoards, and 366 gold objects reported through the Treasure process!

 

BERK-0A0DD7. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

One of the earliest objects within this period is this copper alloy flat axehead dating to the Early Bronze Age, c. 2000 – c. 1700 BC, found in Lambourn, West Berkshire. Axes in general can be found in copper alloy Bronze Age hoards or as single finds. This particular type of axehead marks the first type which are known as flat axes. These later developed into palstaves and then to socketed axes. This particular axehead is an Arreton type which marked a certain stage of development where there are long raised flanges along the length of the axe. The butt end is curved and the blade is crescent in form. These types are mostly found in the South East of England.

 

SUR-49AF85. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

Moving on to the Middle to Late Bronze Age we have this very impressive Blackmoor type copper alloy spearhead dating to c. 1100 – c. 900 BC, from West Berkshire. This spearhead is characterised under Davis’s group 16 ‘lunate’ type where the blade has large crescent-shaped openings on either side of the midrib. (Davis 2016). These types are often regarded as weapons belonging to the warrior elite and would have been both “impressive on parade and effective in combat” (Davis 2016). The spear was formed by fitting this type of spearhead to a wooden shaft, via its hollow socket, usually to be hand-held rather than thrown in combat. A recent study has found that 58% of LBA spearheads recovered throughout England, Scotland, and Wales have come from the South East of England (Davis 2016). Like the axes mentioned above the spearheads can be found in hoards or as single finds.

GOLD

The type of gold artefacts we find during the Bronze Age in Britain and Ireland are characterised by sheet-working techniques used with incised, repoussé, linear pointillé, and embossed, decoration. Additionally, bar-working techniques where the bar was twisted for neck ornaments such as torcs and bracelets are seen emerging in the Middle Bronze Age.

BERK-A5FFE5. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

These type of objects brings us to our next set of finds from Berkshire which include this fascinating gold bracelet threaded with five penannular rings dating to c. 1300 – c. 1150 BC, found in East Berkshire. The object comprises a double twisted gold bar or wire coiled and threaded with four double composite rings and one single ring. Click on the photo to read more about the ornament.

 

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

The next set are from a Bronze Age hoard found in West Berkshire and are currently on display in the ‘Hoard’ exhibition at West Berkshire Museum in Newbury! Details can be found here:

https://www.berksarch.co.uk/index.php/2018/03/opens-january-24th-2018-west-berkshire-museum-hoards/

The hoard dates to the Middle Bronze Age, c. 1300 – c. 1100 BC and comprises 2 gold twisted torcs and 3 gold penannular bracelets. The bracelets are plain with no decoration. The torcs are described as armlets or neck ornaments and one has been coiled five times and the other six times. Both torcs have plain terminals. For more details on the hoard click on the links below:

BERK-83AC41, BERK-683F91, BERK-687927, BERK-6870F5, BERK-6863E4.

 

The last two objects fall under ornaments whose function are unknown, and date from the Middle to Late Bronze Age.

 

BERK-B58065. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

This gold ribbon fragment was discovered folded several times over and has incised ribbed decoration with a pierce perforation at one end. It was found in West Berkshire and dated to c. 1500 – c. 800 BC. Two similar gold ribbons have also been found in West Berkshire and recorded on the PAS database.

SUSS-665261. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

And finally this gold penannular ring found in West Berkshire dating to c. 1150 – c. 800 BC. This is a gold foil plated ring with silvery gold wire inlaid into the gold foil as decoration. The ornament was scientifically tested to include a copper alloy core beneath the gold plating. This is quite a common type of Bronze Age penannular ring.

Often gold ornaments are scientifically analyzed during the Treasure process to identify the techniques used and to establish the metal content. Some research studies have focused on determining the provenance of the gold via compositional or isotopic measurements, as there are currently no discovered Bronze Age gold mines in Europe. Therefore, it is often difficult to establish where the gold came from. This is especially the case when re-melting, recycling and alloying make it very difficult to connect artefacts and their sources.

 

References:

Portable Antiquities Scheme. Guide to Bronze Age:

https://finds.org.uk/guides/bronzeage/objects/axes

https://finds.org.uk/guides/bronzeage/objects/gold

Later Prehistoric Finds Group Object Datasheet No.3. A Short Guide to Late Bronze Age Spearheads. Richard Davis PhD, Feb 2016.

Finds Through The Ages – The Neolithic Period in Berkshire

The Neolithic period dates from 4000 BC – 2200 BC. Core and flake technology and axe manufacture were the characteristics of this period where we see object types such as; leaf oblique arrowheads, scrapers serrated blades, and polished axes in the Earlier Neolithic, oblique arrowheads, large scrapers, fabricators(long, thick flakes or blades with retouch on all faces), polished discoidal knives, polished axes, and plano-convex knives in the Later Neolithic.

Only 5 finds from this period have been recorded on the PAS database which were found in West Berkshire, and 7 from East Berkshire. Tools include the below stone axehead, flint blade, and oblique arrowhead.

 

BERK-BC7542. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

This stone axe head was found in Lambourn, West Berkshire and dates to c. 3500-2100 BC. This is one of only two stone axeheads found in the whole of Berkshire. It has a curved cutting edge and is made of an igneous low silica rock, between gabbro and coarse-grained dolorite in terms of grain size. This type of stone is not natural to the southeast area so therefore has been imported into the area.

 

BERK-1994EC .Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

We don’t get many lithic arrowheads in Berkshire so it was lovely to see this come in last year! Found in Hermitage West Berkshire, this oblique arrowhead dated to c. 2700 – 2400 BC (Later Neolithic) is sub-triangular in shape and is asymmetrical with a hollowed base to one side.

 

BERK-BABC71. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

This flint laurel leaf knife was found in White Waltham, East Berkshire and dates to c. 4000 – 2200 BC. Evident by its name it is leaf-shaped and is worked on both sides and is covered on both sides with scaled, low angle flaking. One edge has scaled retouch whereas the other edge is highly worn with less evidence of retouch. This knife must have been a heavy duty knife!

 

References:

Portable Antiquities Scheme. 2013. Recording fling and stone: A Guide and Protocol.

The Trustees of the British Museum, 1968. Flint Implements.

 

Finds Through The Ages – The Mesolithic Period in Berkshire

This week we look at finds from the Mesolithic period which dates from 9000 BC – c. 4000 BC. During this time we see the continuation of blade technology which emerged from the Early Upper Palaeolithic (40,000-24,000 BC), as well as tranchet axe manufacture. Tools include: Tranchet axes, blades and bladelets (less than 12mm wide), microliths (obliquely truncated points), endscrapers, burins (small plough-like tools used to cut grooves in bone and antler).

Only 9 lithic tools from the Mesolithic period have been recorded on the PAS database which were found in West Berkshire, and surprisingly none on the East side of Berkshire so far.

 

Mesolithic 'tranchet' axe
BERK-D1E2C2. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

 

This ‘tranchet’ axe was found in Newbury, West Berkshire. This is a complete knapped flint tranchet adze or pick dating to the Mesolithic period (8300-4000 BC). The pick has been made from a flint nodule and is broadly sub-rectangular in plan with both the butt end and the bladed cutting edge being slightly rounded; the pick tapers slowly from the butt end towards the blade. At the tip of the axe blade is the characteristic ‘tranchet’ flake removal, which gives this type of adze or pick its name. This is where it was sharpened by the removal of a single flake with a transverse blow. These types of ‘tranchet’ axes were used throughout the Mesolithic period.

Mesolithic crested blade
BERK-CDE464. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0
BERK-CDE464. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

These two complete flint ‘crested blades’ of Mesolithic date (8,000 -4,000 BC) were found in Kintbury, West Berkshire. The smaller blade has a trace of cresting at its distal end. Both blades are heavily patinated white on their surfaces while internally the flint is a greyish-blue in colour. This is typical of flints from this area.

Taken from the PAS record BERK-CDE464, Anni Byard comments:

“The presence of these two crested blades is evidence of blade and bladelet production and with the associated finds (BERK-CEB825) is further evidence of Mesolithic flint production in the area, which is known of through the discovery of a Mesolithic flint mine in nearby Wawcott, carbon dated to the late Mesolithic (4360-3780 BC cal; Froom 1972). The Kennett Valley is well-known for its Mesolithic remains (see for example Lobb & Rose 1996) which in this area appears to span the period between c. 8,000-3000 BC (Froom 1972:19) with over 50 sites of Mesolithic date having been identified along a 6-mile stretch (ibid.) which includes the findspot area. These objects add to the already large corpus of prehistoric flint tools found in the area.”

[The references cited are:

Froom, F.R. 1972. Some Mesolithic Sites in South-West Berkshire. Berkshire Archaeology Society. Pages 11-22.

Lobb, S.J. & Rose, P.G. 1996. Archaeological Survey of the Lower Kennet Valley, Berkshire. Trust for Wessex Archaeology Ltd. Pages 73-75.]

Often people come to us with lithic tools which they find in their own back gardens. Click on the link below to see an example from the PAS database where 200 lithic implements were found during gardening activities!

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/926030

 

References:

Portable Antiquities Scheme. 2013. Recording fling and stone: A Guide and Protocol.

The Trustees of the British Museum, 1968. Flint Implements.

 

Finds Through The Ages

The Palaeolithic Period

Today I was thinking about searching for the oldest find found in Berkshire via the PAS database! This then lead me to ponder on the idea of writing a weekly blog where I could demonstrate this by writing about the oldest finds from different periods. So lets see how this goes! I shall start with the Palaeolithic period.

Much to my surprise two of the oldest finds from this period were recorded by myself! A lower Palaeolithic lithic flake, and a lower Palaeolithic lithic ficron handaxe fragment. Both date to 800, 000 – 250,000 BC, and were identified by lithic specialist Alison Roberts. These two were found in West Berkshire.

BERK-ADD4AE
Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0
BERK-AD272D
Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

And on the other side of Berkshire in Reading we have this lovely lower Palaeolithic handaxe (tip missing) dating to 500,000 – 250, 000 BC, identified and recorded by the late and greatly missed David Williams!

SUR-AAA884
Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

Hand axes were created through a flint-knapping process and were worked on both sides (bifacial). They were shaped to be used as multi purpose tools, and are probably the longest used tool in human history! The ficron handaxe above would have been shaped with curved sides and a pointed tip but unfortunately the tip is incomplete. The word ‘ficron’ comes from the French word meaning tip of a punt-pole. The tool was named after the French archaeologist Francois Bordes.

 

[click on images to go direct to PAS record]

References:

The Trustees of the British Museum, 1968. Flint Implements.

 

 

My finds of note so far…

Nearly 7 months into my post and I have come across some great finds from both West and East Berkshire. Here are some of the highlights!

An incomplete copper alloy sword belt hanger dating to c. 16th -17th  century found in West Berkshire. These were worn to suspend swords in the post Medieval period.

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

And this incomplete copper alloy Late Bronze Age socketed axehead dating to c. 1050 –  800 BC was found in East Berkshire.

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

This lovely zoomorphic buckle frame dating to the 12th-13th century was found in West Berkshire. Notice the fine detail of the figurine, which is a winged lion or sphinx with a serpent wrapped around its torso and neck.

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

The Iron Age silver unit found in East Berkshire is especially important as it signifies the production of this type of coin in Berkshire. This is a Tasciovanus Berkshire Wreath type dating to c. 25 – 10 AD.

Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

Finds from Berkshire

Copyright Portable Antiquities Scheme. License: CC BY – 2.0
A Roman nail cleaner c. 1st – 2nd century AD found in West Berkshire. BERK-1A3B74
Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0

A gold touch-piece of Queen Anne dating to 1702-1714 found in East Berkshire.  BERK-AD2BA7

How to record your finds with the Berkshire FLO

 

The new Berkshire FLO is Helena Costas.

Based at the West Berkshire Museum on Wednesdays, and the Berkshire Record Office on Thursdays. I am contactable on; 01635519397, and via email at; Helena.Costas1@westberks.gov.uk. My work days are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.

Finds Surgeries

  • West Berkshire Museum – Second Wednesday of every month by appointment between the hours 12.30 – 3.30 pm
  • Wokingham Library – Last Thursday of every month between 10am – 12pm
  • Berkshire Record Office, Reading – Every Thursday by appointment between the hours 12 – 4pm.

Please contact me to arrange appointments.

Image of a trefoil harness pendant with a horse head on reverse.
Iron Age harness fitting with horse head decoration (BERK0A940D9). One of many objects recorded in Berkshire through the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Copyright: The Portable Antiquities Scheme, License: CC-BY 2.0.