LANCUM-449151: 2008 T136: Early Bronze Age gold lunula terminal

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LUNULA

Unique ID: LANCUM-449151

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Awaiting validation Find awaiting validation

The lunula terminal is complete yet somewhat bent, the only break showing where it broke off of the main part of the broad, crescent-shaped collar.
The terminal weighs 6.86g and has the dimensions of 47.48x25.97x0.63mm. No surface metal analysis was carried out but the precious metal content (gold) will be more than 10%.

The lunula terminal was found whilst out metal-detecting on farmland near Brampton, Cumbria.

The terminal (or 'horn') consists of a flat part which is shaped like the bowl of a spoon which is connected by a short 'stalk' to an elongated part with flat-rectangular cross-section which would have extended into the large, crescent-shaped collar. The bowl-shaped end is undecorated on both sides, but the strip displays a decoration of parallel lines on the obverse whilst being undecorated on the reverse. The lines are incised and were applied to run parallel to the sides of the fragment and along the top of the flattened part. They form roughly one half of a set of 'boxes'. The incised lines of the outermost 'box' have an additional decoration of very small squares which were applied with a small punch at irregular intervals over the incised line.
The 'stalk' which connects the flat collar and bowl-shaped terminal has a round cross-section and is twisted at a 90 degree angle (as the other terminal or 'horn' would have been). This was necessary for the two terminals to interlock when the lunula was worn.

Although common in Ireland, lunulae are very rare Bronze Age gold objects found in the British Isles and northwest France. They date from around 2200-1700BC and are thus c. 4000 years old.
Only few are known from Scotland and this is the first lunula fragment from Cumbria. A small number have also been found in Cornwall and Brittany, France. In contrast to some of the Scottish lunulae and this new fragment from Brampton, original Irish lunulae were made from extremely thin gold sheet (less than 0.1mm thick). They are very fragile and much less substantial than these thicker lunulae which Taylor classified as 'Provincial type lunulae' (Taylor 1970, 74ff). Original Irish sheet lunulae were so thin that they could be rolled and folded (Cahill pers. comm.), but the new fragment from Brampton was, similar to the complete lunulae from Auchentaggart, (Dumfries, Scotland) and Orbliston (Elginshire, Scotland) (National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland: NMX.FE3 and NMX.FE2), made from a thicker sheet of gold.
The two lunulae from Auchentaggart and Orbliston are the most useful parallels to our fragment from Brampton: Although, unlike ours, complete, the lunula from Auchentaggart displays a repair at one terminal and the lunula from Orbliston is missing the greater part of one terminal whilst the second has broken off. Both objects are very fragile and difficult to handle with the transition from terminal to collar being their weakest point and clearly prone to breaking. Interestingly, the broken-off terminal of the Orbliston lunula is of similar dimensions and weight (6.06g) to the new fragment from Brampton (6.86g). The two above-named lunulae also display a similar decoration to that of the fragment from Brampton which is not as clear and neat as the decoration on the original Irish lunulae. 'Provincial' lunulae are usually decorated with an untidy pattern of parallel lines and 'boxes', dotted with elongated, square and round punches making up lines, zigzag lines or bundles of short, incised lines). All decoration is geometrical and not figural. The decoration of Irish and Scottish (and now, Northern English) is sufficiently similar to assume that the Scottish and Northern English lunulae were copies of the original Irish ones.
As far as we can tell from old find reports and museum records, most lunulae were found singly or, rarer, in pairs, deposited on their own or possibly in a box or pouch. They are usually complete, even though the terminals are broken off. Lunulae have not been found within clear grave or hoard contexts and are thus generally considered to be single depositions.

Notes:

The lunula terminal from Brampton, Cumbria, would therefore qualify as Treasure under two of the stipulated criteria of the Treasure Act: it is more than 300 years old and the precious metal content (in this case gold) exceeds 10%.

Find of note status

This is a find of note and has been designated: National importance

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Landowner donated his share to Tullie House Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2008T136

Chronology

Broad period: BRONZE AGE
Subperiod from: Early
Period from: BRONZE AGE
Subperiod to: Early
Period to: BRONZE AGE
Date from: 2400 BC
Date to: 2000 BC

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 47.48 mm
Width: 25.97 mm
Thickness: 0.63 mm
Weight: 6.88 g

Personal details

Recorded by: Dr Dot Boughton
Identified by: Dr Dot Boughton

Other reference numbers

Other reference: 50 Finds from Cumbria
Treasure case number: 2008T136

Materials and construction

Primary material: Gold
Manufacture method: Cast
Completeness: Fragment

Spatial metadata

Region: North West (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Cumbria (County)
District: Carlisle (District)
To be known as: Brampton

Spatial coordinates


Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Current location: Landowner donated his share to Tullie House Museum
General landuse: Cultivated land
Specific landuse: Character undetermined

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: LANCUM
Created: 10 years ago
Updated: About one year ago

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