A Bronze Age Copper Alloy Arrowhead from Surrey

One of the most important and lasting legacies of the Portable Antiquities Scheme is the way in which it has transformed our understanding of the very existence of a wide range of artefacts which were previously entirely or almost entirely unknown in Britain. A great example of this achievement is our knowledge of the distribution and use of a rare type of Bronze Age flat barbed and tanged arrowhead, made of copper alloy in apparent imitation of earlier and far more common flint examples. They are clearly functional objects in terms of their size, form and manufacture, but being made of what was at the time an expensive material they may well represent a significant display of social status through their ownership and use. One such example,  SUR-4655A8, has recently come to light in Surrey and is the first of this type of object to ever be recorded from the county.

A Bronze Age Arrowhead from Surrey.
Bronze Age copper alloy arrowhead. Copyright: Surrey County Council, License: CC-BY.

Although there are now more than twenty examples of these small finds on the database, prior to the start of the scheme there was really only one known in Britain – from the Penard Hoard, found in West Glamorgan in 1827. This particular example was long thought to be an exotic import from the continent where metal arrowheads of this very early date are more widely known. The work of the PAS has demonstrated that these arrowheads are actually a part of the British Bronze Age metalworking tradition, as they have now been recorded from many different parts of the country as isolated finds. For now however, the Penard example remains the only one from a dateable archaeological context and provides the best dating evidence (to the middle Bronze Age, circa 1275-1140 BC). As more examples come to light, perhaps from better contextualised hoards or sites, our understanding of these little objects in terms of when and how they were made and used, can only increase.