HAMP-2865F1: Langton Matravers 2007 T629

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HOARD

Unique ID: HAMP-2865F1

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

CORONER'S REPORT

A hoard of 303 bronze socketed axes, broken socketed axes and socketed axe fragments. A full catalogue has been produced for this hoard but is not offered here; it is available on request from the Department of Portable Antiquities and Treasure at the British Museum. Rather, the axes, all being similar with one exception, are discussed as a group.

All but one of the axes in this hoard appear to be of Type Portland (Bruns pers. comm.), which dates to the Llyn Fawr stage of the Bronze Age (LBA4) (800-600BC) (Needham et al. 1997; O'Connor 2007). This type is distributed in Dorset, particularly on the Dorset coast. One axe of Type Rudham is also present in the hoard - this type dates to the same period and is distributed in East Anglia (Bruns pers. comm.).

The socket mouth of these axes is 'back-to-front'. 'Back-to-front' refers to the situation in which the long axis is at right angles to the blade of the axe and the collar is thicker at the ends of the long axis (O'Connor 1980, 232). The axe displays single mouth moulding, beneath which a loop protrudes. The axe is shaped from thin metal and there are prominent casting seams. Almost all axes from the Langton Matravers hoard have three ribs ending in single pellet decoration; however, four ribs are present on two axes, and five ribs on one axe. The upper body is slender, leading down to a sharply trapezoidal lower body and a straight, broad edged blade. Some axes in this hoard have fillet-defined facets. Most axes have a bright silver patina with patches of green/white encrusted corrosion.

The axes are cast high-tin bronze (analysis pending), made in bivalve (probably clay) moulds (P. Northover pers. comm.) with casting flashes intact in the majority of cases. Remains of the clay core appear to have been left inside many of the axes. Although the majority of blades appear unsharpened, microscopic examination revealed vertical striations (parallel to the ribs) which suggest that the axes may have been polished. The high-tin bronze composition of the axes gave them their silvery patina but also left them highly brittle and unsuitable for functional tasks such as woodworking. Furthermore, the thinness of the axes and the frequently poor quality of casting would suggest that the intention was that they would never be used. Striations on the blades of nos. 250 and 251 suggest that these may have been sharpened. The dimensions and style of the axes in the Langton Matravers hoard are very similar although not identical. The general length of a complete Type Portland axe in the hoard is between 90 and 100mm; they have an general width of between 40 and 45mm, and weigh between 120 and 140g.

Notes:

It seems that groups of axes were each made from one mould and, in each case, the earliest axes made from the mould have sharply defined ribs and pellets, with detail becoming less well-defined on axes made from moulds which have already been used several times. It appears that at least nos. 247 and 249 were made from the same mould.

The apparent avoidance of the mass production techniques available, such as stone and metal moulds, would have meant that the casting of each axe would have represented a distinct event of labour and craftsmanship. The minor variations which can be observed on these Type Portland axes would appear to support this.The presence of single Type Blandford axe, is therefore something of a puzzle though is found in Dorset.

These axes are similar to the Sompting type, having characteristic rib and pellet decoration, 'back-to-front' sockets, with the long axis at right angles to the blade of the axe, as well as splayed loops (Burgess 1967-70; Coombs 1972; Coombs et al. 2003; O'Connor 1980; Schmidt & Burgess 1981). However, the axes from Langton Matravers are more slender than typical Sompting axes and have less splayed cutting edges. They therefore appear to be more similar to a type described by Coombs et al. (2003, 204). This type is triangular and slender, with three or more thin vertical ribs, and includes examples from Portland, Dorset (Pearce 1983, 616; Plate 55) and Salisbury, Wiltshire. Indeed, the decoration on the axes from Langton Matravers (three ribs ending in pellets and two facets) is very similar to the decoration on the axes from Portland, and both hoards are found in the same area of the Dorset coast. This type is known as Type Portland (Bruns pers.comm.). The other type represented in this hoard is Type Blandford, which is far rarer and found with high tin bronze gouges as at the Blandford Forum hoard (Pearce 1983, 465). They are similar to the other regional form of linear faceted axe, Type Rudham, which is concentrated in East Anglia and has a round mouth, with collar and indistinct horizontal rib - the blade is trapezoidal with a broad edge and has grooved facets, usually marked by triple and quadrupal ribs (O'Connor 1980, 232) - a characteristic example is in the Watton hoard. Variations of linear faceted axes are found in concentrations in East Anglia, Dorset and the eastern Netherlands, as well as northwestern Germany, Belgium and northeastern France (Butler 1963; O'Connor 1980, 227; Map 76; Butler & Steegstra 2005-2006).

The deposition of bronze socketed axe fragments and bronze lumps in the landscape during the Late Bronze Age is well known from this area (Pearce 1983). Debate regarding the purpose of this activity and whether the objects were intended for later retrieval continues. However, the frequency with which such "scrap" or "founders" hoards are discovered points towards an interpretation beyond the simple storage of metal. Indeed, it would appear in this case that a vast number of axes were produced to a specific type, removed from their moulds, polished and subsequently discarded with no apparent functional use.

Whilst it is currently impossible to establish a fine chronological resolution on the date of deposition, it occurred at the very end of the Bronze Age, where bronze ceased to be circulated or hoarded (Thomas 1989; Needham 2007).

The hoard has been put through the Treasure process as case 2007 T629. A similar hoard found soon afterwards in the vicinity has been put through the Treasure process as case 2007 T640.

Subsequent actions

Current location of find: Dorset County Museum
Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2007 T629

Chronology

Broad period: BRONZE AGE
Subperiod from: Late
Period from: BRONZE AGE
Subperiod to: Early
Period to: IRON AGE
Date from: Circa 800 BC
Date to: Circa 600 BC

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 303

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Friday 26th October 2007 - Saturday 27th October 2007

Personal details

Found by: This information is restricted for your login.
Recorded by: Mr Robert Webley
Identified by: Dr Dot Boughton
Secondary identifier: Mr Ben Roberts

Other reference numbers

Treasure case number: 2007 T629

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Manufacture method: Cast

Spatial metadata

Region: South West (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Dorset (County)
District: Purbeck (District)
To be known as: Langton Matravers CP

Spatial coordinates


Grid reference source: From a paper map
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 10 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
Current location: Dorset County Museum
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: HAMP
Created: Friday 13th June 2008
Updated: Thursday 24th February 2011

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