Finds Through The Ages – The Early Medieval Period.

This period covers the decline of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century to the Norman conquest of 1066 AD.

For Berkshire, there are only 181 records covering this period which doesn’t seem that many! In contrast with the Roman period, the finds dominating in this period are brooches, followed by strap-ends, then coins.

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A complete cast copper-alloy brooch of cross-on-bird form dating to c. AD 750 – c. AD 850. The brooch is in the shape of a bird, possibly a dove (symbol of the Holy Spirit), in profile and facing left with a Christian cross projecting upwards from the centre of its back. Traces of a green-yellow coating over the bird and cross, possibly indicate enamelling. This brooch has been classed as a Weetch type 30.B, and was included in Included in Weetch 2013 as catalogue no. 915, a very rare find of note indeed found in Boxford! Click on the image to read more about the object.

 

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This copper alloy gilt button brooch dates to c. AD 450 – c. AD 600, and was found in East Berkshire. The decoration is in the form of a stylized male face with moustache! There are quite a number of these types of button brooches which bare faces on the PAS database.

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Next we have a copper alloy gilt saucer brooch dating to c. AD 450 – c. AD 550. The brooch is decorated with five running spirals around a central ring and dot inside a circular border. What is interesting about this brooch is that it has a hole and some residue of white metal on the reverse around this hole so it may have been repaired or re-used. This particular find was found very close to the time celebrating the recent milestone of the 1.5 millionth find recorded on the PAS database! It was found in Speen. Many brooches such of this type have been recorded on the database with varying number of spirals.

 

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Even though only a fragment survives of this brooch it is still rather spectacular! It is a copper alloy gilt fragment of a florid cruciform brooch dating c. AD 575 – c. AD 600. The head plate has a recessed panel decorated with a chip-carved with Style 1 interlaced motifs. This was found in Wokingham.

 

STRAP ENDS

 

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This unusual silver tongue-shaped strap-end is in the process of being acquired by the West Berkshire Museum in Newbury where it will be one day displayed!

It has been dated from the 9th to 10th century. It takes the form of an animal mask, with two circular ears marked with a crescent-shaped line; beneath this, on either side of the head, are two almond-shaped eyes; and the rest of the head is decorated with a central motif resembling a 7- or 8-pointed star. The record notes state: ‘It does not fit perfectly within Thomas’ (2003) typology, but shares features with his Class A which have tapering plates and zoomorphic terminals. The style of the animal headed terminal suggests a broad date between the ninth and tenth centuries.’

 

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This complete copper alloy zoomorphic strap end, dates to the 9th Century AD, and was found in Aldworth. The strap end is in Thomas Class A Type 1, being broadly rectangular with slowly tapering ends, especially at the ‘snout’ end. The central panel is decorated with an interlaced beast in Trewhiddle style with degrading niello.

COINS

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A silver penny of Offa of Mercia (757-796), Light Coinage (c.765-92; Chick type 67); minted by Pendred at London. The coin was designated a find of note of regional importance and found in Shottesbrooke, East Berkshire.

 

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A gold tremissis Merovingian of the ‘National coinage’ (c.AD580 – 670) dating to the period cAD580 – 610. The coin was designated a find of note of County importance and was found in East Berkshire.

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

These 2 incomplete silver pennies of Edward the Confessor (AD 1042-1066) were struck between AD 1053-1056. They are the ‘Pointed Helmet’ type and were found in close proximity of each other in West Berkshire. They were donated to the West Berkshire in Newbury after being declared as Treasure.

SWORD POMMELS

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This incomplete copper-alloy sword pommel cap is of the ‘cocked hat’ type dating to c. AD 410-c. AD 720. Found in Welford.

 

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This later complete copper alloy sword pommel is of Petersen Type S comprising five lobes increasing in size from the edges to the centre. It dates to c. AD 900 – c. AD 1100. This form is considered to be of English origin (Davidson 1962, 55-6), but is called “Viking” and “of late Viking style” by Oakeshott (1991, 78 and 81). Found in Stanford Dingley.

OTHER OBJECTS

 

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An 11th century copper alloy stirrup strap mount with the engraved decoration picked out in silver wire. It is Williams Class A Type 1 featuring two addorsed beasts beneath a pendant loop. Found in West Berkshire.

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A zoomorphic terminal made of silver and partly gilded, dating to c. AD 775 – 800. The terminal is hollow-cast, with a pyramidal socket of rectangular section which would perhaps originally have held a wooden rod. This object is a find of note and was acquired by the West Berkshire Museum in Newbury after being declared Treasure. For more information click on the image to be redirected to the PAS record.

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

This intricately decorated copper alloy die stamp is possibly a ‘Pressblech’ die dating to the early 7th century AD. Pressblech dies were used to stamp designs onto thin sheets of metal, such as gold and silver foil, which were then used to decorate larger objects. The foils on the Sutton Hoo helmet are an example of this practice. This object was found in Boxford.

 

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This rare buckle found in Lambourn is made of copper-alloy with a lead coating. It is a Sucidava buckle dating to c. 500 – 600 AD. Schulze-Dorrlamm Type D1. From the record: ‘this type of buckle is a standard Byzantine buckle form and would have been made by one of the Germanic peoples on the continent.’ Yet another find of note!

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This is an amazing find of note and Treasure item found in East Berkshire. It is a gold cloisonné insert probably from the tongue of an early Anglo-Saxon buckle, dating to the late sixth to mid seventh century. The item is pelta-shaped and comprises a panel of gold, garnet and glass cloisonné cellwork, containing around thirty settings/inlays. There are 12 red inlays (probably garnets) and three blue glass inlays which survive. Click on the image to find out more.

 

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Lastly we have this impressive assemblage of grave goods comprising, two incomplete copper alloy vessels (AD.475-600) and two ferrous spearheads, AD.450-550. The objects were found in association with small shards of bone and a single human toe bone. For a detailed account of the finds including more photographs of the objects in this assemblage click on the image to be directed to the PAS record.

 

FINDS THROUGH THE AGES – The Roman Period

 

Great Britain was governed by the Roman Empire from the period AD 43 to 410 AD. There are currently 381, 275 records of Roman artefacts and coins on the PAS database, 3172 of which are from Berkshire! The most common finds are coins followed by brooches. An amazing 2, 580 coins, and 179 brooches are recorded from Berkshire, a large proportion of which were found in West Berkshire.

 

COINS

As there are so many coins to choose from here are the only 2 gold solidi recorded from Berkshire:

 

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This gold Roman solidus of Theodosius I (AD 379-395), dating to the period AD 378-383 (Reece Period 20) was found only last year in West Berkshire.

The reverse legend reads: VICTOR-IA AVGG and depicts two emperors seated facing, together holding a globe. Behind and between them the upper portions of a Victory with outspread wings, between them below a palm branch. Mint of Trier. As RIC IX, no. 50; Hoxne, no. 12.

 

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The second solidus is of Valentinian I (AD 364-75), dating to the period AD 364 – 367 (Reece period 19), was found in Wokingham. The reverse legend reads: RESTITVTOR REI PVBLICAE and depcits the emperor in military attire standing, head facing right, holding labarum ornamented with Chi-Ro and victory on globe. Mint of Trier. Sear suggests a more precise date of AD 364. Reece period 19.
Reference: RIC volume IX, p.13, no.1(a) 1a (A) 7; Sear 19244.

 

Here are some of the highlights of various artefacts from Berkshire.

 

BROOCHES. As there are so many brooches in this period here are some of the less common types we have in Berkshire:

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This zoomorphic copper alloy Roman plate brooch, dating to the period c. AD 100 – 200 was found in Boxford, West Berkshire. The brooch is in the form of a cockerel and has crescent shaped cells to each side, filled with red and blue enamel suggestive of the wing feathers. Cockerels are associated with the god Mercury.

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This incomplete copper alloy enameled disc brooch dates to the 2nd century AD. It is decorated with a six pointed star with blue, green and red enamel cells. This style of brooch is often referred to as ‘sunburst’ design. The brooch was found in Chieveley.

 

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This copper alloy plate brooch dating to the 2nd century AD is lozenge in form with a raised cell and eight rounded projections. The brooch decoration is well preserved and consists of a design in blue, red and white enamel, with red and white dots on a blue field and centrally concentric red and white circles.  Found in West Isley.

 

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An incomplete copper alloy Roman plate brooch dating to c. AD 100 – 200.  The brooch is pelta-shaped in form. The brooch is decoration is of Champlevé style with enamel in-filled cells. It has a central ‘ladder’ effect of cells with alternate yellow and red infill. To each side, there is a curvy linear, or floral design infilled with blue and red enamel. This brooch was recently found in Welford, West Berkshire.

 

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A copper alloy spoked disc brooch dating to c. 200-410 AD was found in Lambourn.  This brooch is almost complete with only the iron pin missing! It is beautifully preserved with a gilded obverse and tinned reverse.

 

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An almost complete copper alloy light crossbow brooch dating to c. AD 280-410. The iron residue on the reverse along the cross bar indicates where the pin would have been. This is otherwise pretty well preserved and was designated a find of interest by the FLO perhaps due to the rarity and preservation of this type of brooch in Berkshire.  Found in Welford.

 

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Moving on to this last and pretty spectacular brooch! This is a rare find as it is complete! It is a Hod Hill type brooch dating to 43-75 AD. The brooch has multiple ribbed moulding down the bow with a wide horizontal panel forming ‘side lugs’ across the middle. It also contains traces of silver. Found in Lambourn.

 

VESSEL

 

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This incomplete and plough-damaged sheet copper alloy vessel dates to the 1st AD and was possibly used for a cremation. It was found in West Berkshire. Interestingly some rim fragments were also found with this vessel but it is unclear if they were part of this vessel or of another. The rims depict either ibises or swans.

For more information and photos click on the link to go direct to the record. This great artefact is also featured in the ‘50 Finds from Berkshire’ book by Anni Byard which is now available to purchase on amazon! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Sevenoaks-Great-War-Its-Legacy/dp/1445675005/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=50+finds+from+Berkshire&qid=1595341326&sr=8-1

The vessel will soon be on display at the West Berkshire Museum, Newbury.

 

FINGER RING

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A complete gold finger ring of Roman date, Guiraud Type 2c (Guiraud 1989: 181-185) dating from the late first to mid-third century AD (c. AD 75-250). The finger ring has an oval Cornelian intaglio depicting a bird (probably an eagle) advancing left over a solid line that acts as the ground. This gold finger ring was found in West Berkshire and has been acquired and will soon be on display at the West Berkshire Museum in Newbury!

EAR-RING

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Another Treasure item, this gold lunate object was either a pendant or possibly an ear-ring, and dates to 1st to 3rd century AD. It was found in West Berkshire. The object has been paralleled to other Roman ear-rings of similar form none have been found like this one in Berkshire before.

 

HAIR PIN

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A copper alloy pin with the head in the form of a human head and upper torso, dating to the 1st to 4th century AD, found in East Ilsley, West Berkshire. From the PAS record notes: The British Museum specialist writes “Despite the size and squarish shaft I regard it as a Romano-British hair pin, appropriately depicting a woman with a fancy coiffeur. The distinctive positioning of the hands is reminiscent of an object from the Lydney Romano-British temple site, and may have been an allusion to childbirth/fertility. It is not possible to date it more closely than 1st to 4th century AD.” I am indebted to Ralph Jackson for this comment.

 

NAIL CLEANER

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This unusual find is a copper alloy anthropomorphic terminal, probably from a toilet article. It dates to 1st – 2nd century AD. The terminal has been cast to form a human head modelled three-dimensionally! Another Lambourn find! The only other similar find was noted to be a nail cleaner from Northamptonshire.

 

SPATULAS

 

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

These two Roman copper alloy spatula handles depict the goddess Minerva.  The goddess wears a helmet and the features of the face and body are much more defined on the second figure than the first. There have been quite few figural spatula handles recorded on the PAS database.  Both these examples are classed as Feugère type A5. Found in Chieveley and Boxford.

 

FITTING

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This copper alloy fitting is possibly from a harness and has a general date of 43-410 AD. It has punched decoration and two crescent-shaped cut-outs. The fitting has a hinge with an iron bar. The fitting was found in Cox Green, East Berkshire.

 

STRAP-END

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A copper alloy nail cleaner strap-end dating to AD 350 – 410. The terminal would have been forked but is now missing. There are many of these recorded on the PAS database but not many which were found in Berkshire so this is a great find. The strap end is decorated with bordering lines of punched dots and crescents. These types of strap ends were largely distributed in the Southern part of Britain.

 

FIGURINES

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A copper alloy figurine of a naked child – a Cupid. Both hands and the right foot are missing. The figurine is in a running pose with the right arm raised. The sex of the figurine is unclear. The hair is held in a small bun at the neck and the details of the hair are engraved. The figurine dates to 43-410 AD and these types of Cupid figurines were typical of the pieces found in Britain. For more information on the object click on the image. Here again we have a find of note with potential for inclusion in Britannia! It was found in Waltham St. Lawrence, East Berkshire.

 

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This copper alloy figurine depicts an upright standing rooster or cockerel has a general Roman date of 43-410 AD. Cockerels are associated with the Celtic god Lugus, who was further associated with Mercury. Found in Lambourn. Other bird mounts can be found on the database but this is the only cockerel type found in Berkshire.

 

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This next object is an incredible find and was reported as a find of note with the potential for inclusion of Britannia! It is a complete but slightly damaged copper alloy Romano-British figurine of a boy with goose dating to c. AD 43 – 200. The statue is in the form of a chubby and naked winged boy, a putto, seated with his arms around the neck of a goose. This statue is probably from a small household shrine. To read more about this object click on the image. It was found in Winterbourne, West Berkshire.

 

 

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Finally we have this lovely Romano British copper alloy figurine of Mars found in Wokingham! This has a general date of 43-410 AD. Mars is depicted naked and only wearing a Corinthian style helmet. From the record: “According to Dr. Emma Durham’s Corpus published in 2012,, this form of Mars figurine was the most common and more than 47 examples are known. This figure is likely to be of north-west provincial origin.”

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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).

 

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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!

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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.

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‘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:

 

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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.

 

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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.’

 

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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.

 

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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.