Cheshire Find of the Month – May 2022

The subject of this month’s find of the month is a Neolithic Leaf shaped arrowhead (c.4000BC-2900BC) from Helsby, Cheshire West and Chester. Recorded under LVPL-7D541C.

LVPL-7D541C – An early to middle Neolithic leaf-shaped flint arrowhead from Cheshire. (c) National Museums Liverpool.

Arrowheads of this type are not uncommon as around 485 examples have been recorded on the PAS database with clusters appearing in the east midlands and northeast Lincolnshire. Despite this, very few have been recorded in the Cheshire region whilst being found widely across most of the country.

Distribution of Neolithic Leaf shaped arrowheads reported to the PAS (c) National Museums Liverpool.

The arrowhead was found by chance after heavy rainfall on Helsby hill, a site known for its Iron Age hillfort. Although there are only two arrowheads of this type recorded from Cheshire, excavation reports from the region close to Helsby Hill show that they are found more commonly than the database suggests. Excavations and fieldwalking dating back to the 1950s have uncovered many Neolithic leaf-shaped arrowheads at sites including, Harrol Edge, Riley Bank Farm, Kelsborrow Hillfort and even another example found at Helsby Hill in 2008. Finds like this highlight a bias in the PAS database towards metallic objects as most items are found by metal detectorists, creating an over representation of metal finds. Lithics are therefore less likely to be picked up and recorded creating areas of apparent scarcity, despite archaeological excavations revealing this isn’t the case. The lack of recorded leaf shaped arrowheads in the Cheshire region makes this arrowhead a find of regional interest and a valuable addition to the PAS database.

References: Garner, D. and Brooks, I. (2016) Hillforts of the Cheshire Ridge. Archaeopress.

Author: Aedan Jones – Kickstart Trainee (Archaeology Collections and Engagement), Museum of Liverpool

Finds from Home

Coming from Ireland but working in England I particularly enjoy when finds have a connection with home. The North West and Ireland have always had links and it should be of no surprise then when objects are handed in for recording which have been found in the North West with strong Irish parallels or links.

Tonight I’ve been working on an object which I recorded recently from Cheshire East, a rare socketed heeled sickle of Iron Age date, LVPL-23E5CF.

Early Iron Age sickle (LVPL-23E5CF) Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

The sickle is in three pieces and has been irregularly broken during antiquity. On one face of the object the heal, in line with the socket, is decorated with a squirly circlet decoration. When researching the sickle I found that it is the only socketed example currently on the PAS database. Immediately I contacted my fellow FLOs Peter and Dot who have an interest in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age. They directed me a similar example in Norwich County Museum which may have been created in the same mould. Then during the course of her research Dot spotted another parallel illustrated on p.14 of P.W Joyce, A Reading book in Irish History. Eager to find out more I emailed the National Museum of Ireland who got back to me straight away with a bit more information about their object. The Irish sickle was discovered in Westmeath and catalogued by William Wilde.

 

A spectacular Cheshire find now in the Museum of Liverpool is the Huxley Hoard, LVPL-C63F8A.

The Huxley Hoard (LVPL-C63F8A) Copyright: Museum of Liverpool. Licence: CC-BY-SA.

A hoard of silver bracelets with flat, punch-decorated bands belong to a well-known Hiberno-Scandinavian type found distributed in areas around both sides of the Irish Sea and produced in Ireland during the second half of the 9th and first half of the 10th centuries. The hoard like that from Cuerdale was probably part of a war chest belonging to the Vikings driven from Dublin by the Irish to settle in the Wirral, Lancashire and Cumbria at the beginning of the 10th century.

 

Early Medieval Irish mount (LVPL-D35B84) Copyright: Copyright: Portable Antiquities Scheme. Licence: CC-BY.

This mount from Doddington, Cheshire East LVPL-D35B84 is another great example of Irish metalworking and the decoration can be compared to mounts from the ‘near Navan’ hoard for which an eighth-ninth century date was suggested. Again probably brought to England due to Viking activity.

Objects connect us with people and places and figuring out their stories is a great way to connect us to the past and for me, to home.

Recording finds in Chester

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Today I was visiting the Grosvenor Museum in Chester where I hold finds day on the second Friday of each month.

My day started well with a queue of three visitors as soon as the doors were open. The first finder was a local metal detectorist who frequently records his finds on the PAS database. His grandson had found a Post-Medieval signet seal ring combined with a pipe tamper, similar to this example LVPL-A563A1. After writing out a receipt for the object the finder left and was followed by a local field walker who had brought me a bag of stones. Although they ‘fitted in his hand’ the stones had not been worked and upon further investigation I discovered they had been found near a river which explained the amount of wear. It was a relief not to have to carry them all away with me!

A couple more visitors came and went with small objects to add to our knowledge of the local area. Next came a detectorist who I had not seen in a while. He showed me an object which his wife had found a number of years ago. This had been recorded by my colleague as a Post-Medieval drawer handle as it has very similar qualities. The record can be found here LANCUM-2D85A8.

The finder then explained he had just gone back to the same field and found a long curving pin which he took out. After having a ‘Eureka’ moment he had realised that his pin was the same greyish green patina as his wife’s object and asked her to dig it out of their box of unidentified finds. It was a perfect match and a Post-Medieval drawer handle suddenly turned into an Iron Age pin! The pin is similar to the swan necked type which date from 300BC to AD50. He also brought a lovely thumb-nail scraper and a 14th century seal matrix for me to record.

Following these exciting finds there was a bit of a break between visitors allowing me to catch up on Photoshop, the less exciting side of my role. My last visitors of the day was a married couple who detect locally and are keen to record their finds. Having showed me a group of interesting finds the previous month, I had asked them if they would allow me to display their finds in the new PAS case which will be in the Museum of Liverpool from next month. They were happy to loan their objects to us for six months and had brought them in along with a couple of new discoveries. They have found a number of Early Medieval finds including this lovely strap end LVPL-D1295B and this Early Medieval buckle LVPL-BFBC1E

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Both of these objects are unusual finds for the Cheshire area where we don’t see many Early Medieval objects. However these new records are starting to show interesting patterns of activity.

Book Review: ’50 Finds from Cheshire’ by Samantha Rowe

ckWBYCc_It was a lovely pre-Christmas treat when my signed copy of ’50 Finds of Cheshire’ dropped through the letterbox. Written by Vanessa Oakden, the Finds Liaison Officer for Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, the book presents fifty of the most interesting artefacts to be found in Cheshire and reported through the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) since 2004. The fifty finds or groups of finds were selected by the author to represent Cheshire’s rich and lengthy heritage.

The book begins with a foreword from Dr Michael Lewis, Head of the Portable Antiquities Scheme, explaining the importance of stray and detected finds and their recording by the Scheme to help piece together our understanding of the past. The chapters then run chronologically from the Neolithic to the Post Medieval period. Each chapter begins with an introduction to the period in regards to Cheshire as a region. The finds are then presented in a coherent and accessible manner. For each find the author gives details of the object type, its date, when and where it was discovered, and a record number so the reader can go online to the PAS database for more information. Each object is also represented with colour photographs and a blurb describing the object and its significance.

It is no surprise to find that the Roman chapter is significantly longer than others. This is in part due to the affluence of Cheshire in this period, but also due to the discovery of five new Roman hoards since 2012. This number of discoveries in such as short space of time reflects how active detectorists are in England and stresses the importance of accurate and professional recording through the PAS.

I was lucky enough be involved in the recovery of two of these Roman hoards. In 2012 a detectorist quickly contacted Vanessa Oakden and a team was brought out to excavate and retrieve what became known as the Knutsford Hoard; comprising Roman silver and copper coins, silver trumpet brooches, finger rings, and fragments of a ceramic vessel. It was such a thrill to see coin upon coin be extracted from the soil, most in extremely good condition even after being buried for over 1800 years.

DSC_0699 Knutsford Dec dig_cropped_reduced

In 2015 I was also able to attend the excavation of the Peover Hoard, where 1,000s of 3rd century copper alloy radiates had been deposited in a storage vessel, most of which was intact apart from the very top of the vessel which had been clipped by the plough. The vessel was meticulously excavated under controlled conditions at the British Museum and the images contained in the book reflect the intricacy of the recovery and conservation techniques.

This publication is an accessible and enticing read into Cheshire’s past with the added bonus of the plentiful colour images throughout. The reader will pick up on the fact that many artefacts and aspects of Cheshire’s rich archaeological heritage would have not be recovered, recorded, or fully understood if it wasn’t for the work of responsible dedicated detectorists and Finds Liaison Officers.

Oakden, V (2015) 50 Finds from Cheshire; objects from the Portable Antiquities Scheme. Amberley, Stroud.

50 Finds from Cheshire is available to buy from the following outlets: Museum of Liverpool, Grosvenor Museum, Chester Tourist Information, Chester Archives Service, Weaver Hall Museum Northwich, Lion Salt Works Northwich, Congleton Museum, Congleton Tourist Information, Nantwich Bookshop Manchester Museum, WH Smiths (Cheshire stores), and online on www.amazon.co.uk and from www.amberley-books.com.

 

 

Grant to research finds from Cheshire

The Chester Archaeological Society wishes to encourage the study and publication of objects (or groups/types of object) reported to the Portable Antiquities Scheme from Cheshire and adjacent areas, to ensure that their potential contribution to the understanding of the archaeology and history of the county is realised. It is therefore offering a grant of £700 every two years to help suitable persons to undertake such research. It is a condition of the grant that the results of the research shall be offered for first publication as an article in the Journal of the Chester Archaeological Society.

For more information and an application form, visit Chester Archaeological Society’s website http://www.chesterarchaeolsoc.org.uk/grants&awards.html