Important multi-period stone tool assemblage from Scalford, Leicestershire.

By Rupert J Birtwistle

For the past two years I have been working on an extremely large private collection of lithic implements, collected by Dr Alan Massey, that possesses artefacts dated from the Lower Palaeolithic to later prehistory. Alan has been actively fieldwalking for nearly 20 years, during which he has surveyed and collected lithic artefacts from a number of locations around Scalford, Goadby Marwood and Eastwell.    

1 Levallois Core

In 2016, Alan contacted the PAS to request that someone record his collection. Through a quite serendipitous event I found myself with the responsibility of analysing and recording this collection. It did not take long to realise the significance of the assemblage which contains artefacts from all periods of prehistory.  As I work full-time as an archaeological Supervisor at Allen Archaeology Ltd whilst undertaking a part-time PhD at University of Leicester, the necessity for funding became apparent. Last year I was successful in acquiring a research grant from the Leicestershire Archaeological and Historical Society which is enabling me to take a break from work and dedicate my time to this task. The research grant is supporting the cataloguing of the material, which is being submitted to the Leicestershire PAS.

 

This project is of the highest importance for prehistoric archaeology in Leicestershire and will add considerably to the archaeological record for the region as a whole. Currently there is only one tentative example of a Levallois object known from Leicestershire, so the presence of definite Levallois cores and flakes (pictured above left) is of national significance. The opportunity to plot the tempo-spatial dynamics of the assemblage is not only unique for this type of collection but fundamental for interpretation of site history, population movements and the targeting of sites.

Slate arrowhead

  The 2000 plus artefacts that I have already analysed possess a large Mesolithic (9000-4000BC) and Neolithic (4000-2200BC) component with numerous microlithic tools and arrowheads. Some tools have even been fashioned on slate, sandstone (pictured) and granite, something that possibly goes unnoticed on other sites, indicating that man was able to work a range of materials into tools. This insight perhaps requires specialists to rethink how diverse later prehistoric communities were in terms of exploitation of various resources. Nearly every artefact type has been present in the assemblage and even some Roman greyware has been found in association with some of the artefacts. Therefore this area has a substantial history. The assemblage is still being recorded but represents a significant site, one that has been revisited countless times and occupied for long periods.

Sandstone arrowhead

P.S.  The Leicestershire volunteer team, recently boosted by Jane Southgate, are working hard to get all of Rupert’s excellent work onto the database so it’s available for research. We currently have just over 1,100 records completed and are doing our best to keep up with Rupert, who is working exceptionally hard to record this important collection so its accessible to all.

 

 

 

 

 

30,000 Objects recorded

As the PAS celebrates its 15th anniversary as a national scheme, the Leicestershire team have just surpassed 30,000 objects recorded!

This achievement is only possible with the assistance of many volunteers over the years and the few self-recorders who are adding to the Leicestershire county total.

The 30,000 objects sit in 19,181 records (i.e. coin hoards are one record). These are objects that could have been found anywhere that local finders go to metal detect. For Leicestershire as a County (which includes 3 detectorists ‘self-recording’ their objects) we currently have 26,118 objects (in 16,121 records).

The volunteers assist me with everything from identification, recording finds details, photography and photo shop. But the main way they help is getting all the information and photographs onto the database records.

As well as being the pilot county for our PASt explorers volunteer project, Leicestershire also had the first ever self- recorder. He has now added 1,319 of his own finds, which is a considerable contribution to the counties archaeological data.

We encourage all finders to consider creating their own records for some or all of their finds to enable us to record as much as possible. The PASt explorers project provides training for this, so if anyone is interested please do get in touch!

The object was a coin of Henry VII found close to Bosworth Battlefield, a very apt location. It was also entirely accidental that it became the 30,000th object inputted!

Halfpenny of Henry VII. Copyright: Leicestershire County Council, Licence: CC-BY.

https://finds.org.uk/database/artefacts/record/id/909703

Bringing Vikings back to the East Midlands -part 2.

As well as hosting the travelling exhibition ‘Viking: Rediscover the legend’ (details below), Nottingham University is also hosting a complimentary exhibition.  ‘Danelaw Saga: Bringing Vikings back to the East Midlands’ highlights the Scandinavian presence in the East Midlands.    The exhibition focuses on the evidence for this, which includes artefacts recorded by the PAS.

Voluntarily recorded objects are extremely important when it comes to plotting possible Scandinavian settlement. Most of the items are casual losses in areas which may never be subject to archaeological investigation.  In Leicestershire we are lucky enough to have a few key items which strengthen this evidence and compliment other sources, such as place names, historical documents, maps and personal names.

Borre style gilded brooch from Cossington.

One class of artefact helping to shed light on this period are brooches. Work by Jane Kershaw, which included PAS data, has highlighted the production of Scandinavian style brooches in England, known as ‘Anglo-Scandinavian’ and has also highlighted the number of Scandinavian imports, which are likely to have been brought over by settlers or traded from home. Either way this highlights the female contribution to building evidence for Scandinavian settlement . We have recorded three ‘Anglo-Scandinavian’  disc brooches in Leicestershire, such as this example from near Melton LEIC-782CD2, but we also have two Scandinavian brooches in the exhibition. A Trefoil brooch LEIC-BD8163 from near Loughborough and  LEIC-E7A016 a rare Scandinavian ‘Borre’ style gilded brooch, found in Cossington.

Carolingian mount

Other more enigmatic objects also hint at Scandinavian presence or influence.  Vikings were magpies and were very fond of Carolingian (modern France) style mounts, some of which are thought to be the inspiration for Trefoil brooches. These are often found by Detectorists and one example, from Barrow Upon Soar (LEIC-C5F14A), clearly shows the link. This is a well made mount and has niello inlay and was gilded. To appreciate this in its full glory a replica of it and many other objects have been made for the exhibition by Blueaxe reproductions.

Mystery Viking mount

Lastly we have a seriously enigmantic object. It has no parallels and its function is unknown, but it screams Viking at you with its interlace, moustached face mask and triskele wearing bearded beasts heads LEIC-0A4CB4.

‘Viking: Rediscover the legend’  – Djanogly Gallery, runs from Saturday 25 November 2017 to Sunday 4 March 2018. Admission is free.

‘Danelaw Saga: Bringing Vikings back to the East Midlands’  – Weston Gallery, runs from Friday 15 December 2017 to Sunday 8 April 2018. Admission is free

Bringing Vikings back to the East Midlands-part 1.

As well as hosting the travelling exhibition ‘Viking: Rediscover the legend’ (details below), Nottingham University is also hosting a complimentary exhibition.  ‘Danelaw Saga: Bringing Vikings back to the East Midlands’ highlights the Scandinavian presence in the East Midlands.   The exhibition focuses on the evidence for this, which includes artefacts recorded by the PAS.

Part of the Thurcaston hoard.

 

Voluntarily recorded objects are extremely important when it comes to plotting possible Scandinavian settlement. Most of the items are casual losses in areas which may never be subject to archaeological investigation.  In Leicestershire we are lucky enough to have a few key items which strengthen this evidence and compliment other sources, such as place names, historical documents, maps and personal names.

 

Anglo-Viking ‘St Edmund memorial’ issue from near Loughborough

The most illuminating finds are ‘Anglo-Viking’ coins.  As well as the important Thurcaston hoard (LEIC-C6D945 ) which contains Anglo-Viking, Anglo-Saxon and Islamic coins,  we have recently recorded three individual ‘St Edmund memorial’ coins in the county and two of these will be on display in the exhibition (LEIC-B7F405   and  LEIC-4FC58C).  The coins were issued by Viking leaders in England and these and the silver ingots from Breedon, also being displayed ( DENO-34FB88 and  DENO-CE6103), are evidence of what is known as a ‘dual economy’ where coinage was used alongside ‘hack silver’.

 

Vikings had no coinage in their homelands and would use silver by weight in any form, coins, ingots, broken up objects (hack silver), as currency.  When they began to settle here, their leaders began issuing their own coinage. The York mint produced the most varied types, but a ‘St Edmund memorial type was issued at an unknown mint and is increasingly found across eastern England.  We have recorded 34 examples with the bulk coming from Suffolk. As no English person could legally use an Anglo-Viking coin and casual losses make up a tiny proportion of all coins in circulation, these finds hint at a substantial Scandinavian population in the area.

Anglo-Viking ‘St Edmund memorial’ issue from near Melton.

 

‘Viking: Rediscover the legend’  – Djanogly Gallery, runs from Saturday 25 November 2017 to Sunday 4 March 2018. Admission is free.

‘Danelaw Saga: Bringing Vikings back to the East Midlands’  – Weston Gallery,  Friday 15 December 2017 to Sunday 8 April 2018. Admission is free

Treasure 20 The Scraptoft hoard – Treasure that isn’t Treasure

   The Scraptoft Hoard

In this last post I wanted to flag up one of our treasures that does not currently qualify as Treasure, even though it’s a hoard!

The Scraptoft hoard is an important assemblage of 11th century tools. Because it is not Prehistoric, this base metal hoard is not Treasure, but the information gleaned from it means that it is really an archaeological treasure.

The hoard consisted of five iron objects: an axe; a plough coulter; a long seax; a scythe; and a collar/clip. All objects were in a remarkable state of preservation, having been found partly exposed in a badgers Sett.  The assemblage represents late Saxon life,  agricultural and woodworking tools alongside a weapon (long seax). Large iron objects are not common on excavated sites, and iron is not routinely searched for by detectorists, so along with another 11 such iron work hoards (all of which contain similar tools) it provides useful information for this period.

It has been argued that these hoards may have been ‘ritual’ deposits, possibly marking the abandonment of sites and suggesting lingering Pagan practices in a Christian context, but it is very difficult to obtain a reason for deposition from the objects themselves and it may have occurred for many reasons.

My colleague Kevin Leahy has written an article about the hoard (and its contemporaries) for Medieval Archaeology 2013,  available on-line if you have a Taylor and Francis log in.

The hoard is in the care of Leicestershire Museums.

 

 

Treasure 20 Melton Museum – Welby Hoard

 The Welby Bronze Age metalwork hoard

The Welby Hoard did not qualify as Treasure when it was found by a farmer digging a trench in a field in 1875. Prehistoric base metal hoards have only been Treasure since 2003, a fact that has already revolutionised our knowledge of Bronze Age metalwork.  Unfortunately, only a proportion of the hoard survived, as the farmer took it to be melted down at a local foundry.

Welby hoard objects

Luckily, local resident Mr W. S. Barnes witnessed this and purchased the remaining finds. He kindly loaned these to the Museums Service. Recently his descendants, now in Australia, donated the hoard to the Leicestershire Museums Service and visited it on display in our recent Treasure exhibition in 2012.

The hoard material dates to around 1000-800BC and is very important. It contained many objects of continental origin showing that the inhabitants of Bronze Age Leicestershire were engaged in long distance trade or exchange.

The remnants of the hoard contain three socketed axes, a small bowl, a sword and probable sword fitting, a spearhead, five circular (Harness?) mounts, cauldron mounts and a few other unknown objects. One of the axes is of a type which came to be known as a ‘Welby axe’ as its form was previously unrecorded. This type of Axe is now known across Southern and Eastern England. In 2009 the Rothley Hoard was found with a very rare complete axe mould (see blog- Charnwood Museum – Rothley Hoard) which would have made a Welby type axe, so they were being made locally.  The bowl is also very unusual, as most of that date would be ceramic, it was described as unique by archaeologists a few decades ago.

The hoard is on display at Melton Carnegie Museum

Treasure 20 Fitzwilliam Museum – The Thurcaston Viking Coin Hoard

  The Thurcaston Viking coin hoard  LEIC-C6D945

This hoard from Thurcaston, Charnwood, is a very important mixed coin hoard. It contains 12 Anglo-Saxon, Arabic and Viking coins, which were found over several years by one detectorist. Because they were found one at a time, it took a while to realise they were a hoard. The finder had already donated the first coins to the Fitzwilliam Museum, so when it was declared a hoard they acquired the rest.

The Thurcaston hoard

It is, so far, the only Viking coin hoard from Leicestershire. The hoard confirms that in Leicestershire a ‘dual economy’ was practised. This is where non-english coins and pieces of silver were used in place of currency,  The Arabic coins, as foreign issues,  would be classed as bullion.  The Vking coins, issue in York, would also not be legal tender in the English Midlands, but these may have been classed as coins by their users as they would have recognised them as valid currency.  As the hoard was deposited c. AD 920 – 925, a time when the Danelaw had been re-conquered by the English, as well as providing evidence for Scandinavian settlers in the area, it also shows they were unaffected by this change of status.

The late Dr Mark Blackburn summed up its significance perfectly. “Their presence shows that a bullion economy still operated in some sections of society in the Danelaw as late as the 920’s. What is still more significant is that this hoard should have been deposited so close to Leicester, five or more years after control of the town had, according to the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (s.a. 918), passed to the Mercians under Aethelflaed. This hoard prompts us to question how effective the conquest of the Danelaw was, and to what extent Anglo-Scandinavian culture and practices remained?”

Found 1992 – 2000. Donated to The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

The coins will be at Nottingham University for ‘Bringing Back The Vikings’ exhibition, which opens in November this year.

Treasure 20 Harborough Museum – Charles I Medallion

 Charles I Medallion  LEIC-78E0B3

This object contains a finely carved bust of the King. Found with a silver link still attached, it probably hung from a silver chain. These medallions were issued to friends and partisans of the monarch and would have been proudly worn by his supporters. It is also believed that some were given out as ‘proto medals’ for services rendered during the English civil war. It is possible that this was actually given out by the King himself.

The events of 1645 may reveal how it was lost….

The Royalists retook Leicester, a Parliamentarian stronghold, on 30th may 1645. The troops looted and destroyed much of the city, killing many civilians.  This was considered an atrocity and at the kings trial events in Leicester were used to illustrate his cruelty.

The pendant was found in Fleckney, on the way to Market Harborough, where the Royalists went after the siege to recruit more troops. In the meantime Parliaments ‘New Model Army’ was amassing at a small village called Naseby. . . After that resounding defeat (700 Royalists died)  Charles and Prince Rupert retreated to Wistow Hall, north of Fleckney,  then rode through Leicester back to their stronghold at Ashby Castle. Their troops followed  but Parliament caught up with them, killing at least 400 between Harborough and  Leicester.

Did the owner sack Leicester, losing his medal on the way to Harborough?  Did he survive Naseby to ride north with the king? Was he hacked down during the retreat back to the safety of Leicester?  Oh if only objects could talk! We will never know for sure, but it seems likely that the pendant may have been lost during one of the bloody events in Leicestershire during the English Civil War.

Found in 2010, the pendant can be seen at Harborough Museum

Treasure 20 Charnwood – Thor’s Hammer

   Thor’s Hammer Pendant LEIC-185125

 

This silver amulet dates to the period 850-1100AD. It would have been worn by a devotee of Thor, one of the main Norse gods alongside Odin and Frey. This was found in Thurcaston parish in 1993 by the same person who found our only Viking coin hoard (see blog  Thurcaston coin hoard). At the time it was only the fourth one ever found in England (or at least recorded by archaeologists) and  it did not qualify as ‘Treasure Trove’ as it would have been classed as  a casual loss.  The combination of the implementation of the Treasure Act, the rising popularity of metal detecting and the common use of precious metal in their construction, means have now recorded 14 examples, 10 of which are silver and one rare gold example from East Lincolnshire which has similar decoration to the Thurcaston example.

Such distinct amulets would have been worn as a statement of religious and cultural affiliation and thanks to them being largely made from precious metal, and therefore protected by the Treasure Act, we are seeing an increasing amount of these. We can use them as a layer of evidence for cultural interaction with Scandinavians or to plot suggested areas of Scandinavian settlement.

On that note, it may be significant that the hoard and the hammer were found near Thurcaston. The place name has evolved from Thorketill’s -tun.  A ‘Grimston-hybrid’ place name which uses a Norse personal name (Thorketill) and an old English place name meaning farmstead/village/estate.  It’s one of a group of place names in North Leicestershire which provides a layer of evidence for Scandinavian settlement.

The object was donated by the finder is on display at Charnwood Museum