YORYM-FB2336: Iron Age : Socketed Axehead

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Unique ID: YORYM-FB2336

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Cast copper alloy socketed axehead dating from the Early Iron Age, that is c. 800-600BC. The axehead is 62.3mm long and weighs 45.8g. The blade is 42.5mm wide and 1.5mm thick. The mouth is 19.6mm x 19.4mm wide and the walls are 4.7mm thick. The axehead is 24.6mm wide at the loop. The axehead is in good condition with only part of the blade missing and the surface slightly damaged. The surface is pitted in some places, but overall smooth and with a dark green, shiny patina. The blade is widely splayed and looks sharpened/re-sharpened although the small size of the axe suggests that it was not used as a tool and so it may have only been sharpened and polished once. The mouth is sub-rectangular, that is back-to-front-shaped (i.e. not aligned with the blade) and it bears elaborate decoration on both surfaces and around the collar. The axe has a large upper and smaller lower mouth moulding and two additional parallel mouldings below, but only on obverse and reverse - there are no additional mouldings on the sides. The back-to-front shape of the mouth as well as the double mouth moulding is very typical of Sompting Type axes which is the predominant type of British Early Iron Age socketed axes. They are also characterised by widely splayed blades and elaborate moulded decoration on obverse and reverse, which can also be found on this specimen. In addition to the collar mouldings, there are three pellets-in-cirles, connected by moulded lines on each face: one circle below the lower mouth mouldings, the others further down the body. There are two lines connecting the circles in a /\ shape. Rib-and-circle, rib-and-pellet and more elaborate decorations combining the two are characteristic of this Early Iron Age axe type and do not occur on any earlier socketed axes that date from the Bronze Age. The elaborate decoration and the small size suggest that this axe may have been used as a pendant or charm rather than a wood-working tool or weapon, even though it was sharpened and polished.

Sompting type axes are also characterised by their comparatively large size which is the only characteristic that this axe does not share. While most Sompting axes are between 12-13cms long, this specimen measures only about the half their size, that is just over 6cms. This is very unusual, though smaller specimens measuring about 10cms are known from the Midlands and Northern England, such as from Shelford (Nottinghamshire) and Givendale (nr. Pocklington, Yorkshire). However, on the whole they are very rare. While the rib-and-circlet decoration is very typical of Sompting Type axes, the additional mouldings below the double mouth moulding seem to be a certain characeristic of the socketed axe from Northern England. The only other specimens with additional mouldings come from Broughton (nr. Malton, Yorkshire), Cayton Carr (Yorkshire) and a group of three socketed axes from two Cumbrian hoards (Skelmore Heads and Ulverston, Furness peninsula, Treasure No. 2012T491, LANCUM- 3F7550 etc) as well as a single find from Scotland which was made from the same mould as the Cumbrian axes, from Dunnichen (Tayside). Socketed axes of Sompting Type from the Midlands and the east coast area, such as from Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Lincolnshire are usually decorated with simple rib-and-pellet decoration and they are of much bigger size. This specimen from the Harworth-Bircotes area of the very northern part of Nottinghamshire is small and decorated with cirlets-and-ribs and it comes from an area where Early Iron Age socketed axes are very rare on the whole. No other Sompting axes have been found in the vicinity and the only socketed axe (from an Early Iron Age context) that is of a comparable size and could be described as a pendant or charm comes from a hoard from near Hindon, Wiltshire (2012T46). This axe, however, is undecorated and its loop was placed on one of the faces rather than its sides which makes it seem a more likely candidate for a pendant or charm.

Compared to other types of Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age socketed axes, Sompting axes are very rare. There are less then a hundred from Britain and this axe from Nottinghamshire is only the second which could be classed as a 'pendant' rather than a tool. Further analysis would be needed to ascertain its former use, i.e. whether or not there is any wood residue in the socket and what the wear marks around the loop and on the blade are. The blade was definitely sharpened and polished and the axe was finished, as no casting seams remain on the sides and around the loop. Late Bronze Age and Early Iron Age people had a variety of wood working tools in their toolkit, amongst them various gouges and chisels, socketed and tanged - there was no real reason to produce a 'miniature' decorated Sompting axe for use because many small tools of similar size and probably better workmanship were in circulation for wood work. This is why it is suggested that this axe from North Nottinghamshire acted as a pendant or charm rather than a woodworking tool or weapon.

Class: Socketed
Sub class: Sompting; Kingston

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


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

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 62.3 mm
Width: 42.5 mm
Thickness: 4.7 mm
Weight: 45.8 g

Personal details

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Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Manufacture method: Cast
Decoration style: Geometric
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: Yorkshire and the Humber (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Doncaster (Metropolitan District)
District: Doncaster (Metropolitan District)
Parish or ward: Tickhill (Civil Parish)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: SK6292
Four figure Latitude: 53.42116392
Four figure longitude: -1.06852637
1:25K map: SK6292
1:10K map: SK69SW
Grid reference source: GPS (from the finder)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
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: YORYM
Created: 8 years ago
Updated: 4 years ago

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