NMGW-F4A584: Early Bronze Age flint dagger

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Rights Holder: National Museum Wales
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Unique ID: NMGW-F4A584

Object type certainty: Certain
Workflow status: Published Find published

Early Bronze Age leaf-shaped, short tanged flint dagger of c. 2250 - 2000BC date
The dagger is of 'Beaker Type' and is complete and comparatively small (with a length of 113.2mm, a maximum width of 40.2mm and a weight of 41.0g). The butt (with a length of 38mm) is of pointed V-shaped form. The form of the butt was likely to have been determined by a patch of rough cortex running along one edge of the butt and subsequently mirrored on the opposite side. The sides diverge (for a length of 28mm) before rounded notches on both sides (where the dagger has a width of 30.3mm) formed by pressure flaking from both faces. The base of the blade also has a further pair of notches but shallower than the lower notches. Between the notches is a lug (8mm long, 2.7mm high and giving the dagger a width of 39.9mm and a thickness of 9.5mm), the edge of which is noticeably worn and polished through wear. The edge within the notches is blunted but is not as worn as the ends of the lugs. The wear within the notches is likely to have resulted from the binding for hafting, whereas the polished ends of lugs may have resulted from wear from a sheath or possibly from repeated handling. The blade is leaf-shaped (75mm long) with convex sides. The dagger has no discernible plano-convex profile and one of the faces is comparatively flat, presumably the ventral surface of the flake, while the other, dorsal surface is convex across its width. The dagger reaches its maximum thickness (of 9.7mm) near the junction, at the top of the butt. The dagger has been expertly pressure-flaked and is heavily-worked on the edges of both faces and has probably undergone some resharpening. The bifacial working on the faces of the blade is noticeably finer than on the butt. There is also a marked difference between the patination on the blade and on the butt. The blade patination is pale grey and semi-translucent while dark grey on the butt, probably a result of the dagger handle and possibly its decay. The flint is of good quality and glossy with few inclusions and together with the pale grey cortex suggest that the flint is likely to have originated in chalkland deposits.

The dagger corresponds to Frieman's (2014) 'Short-Tanged British daggers' and her study lists nearly 400 confirmed and possible flint daggers from Britain and Ireland, with a distribution largely centred around South-Eastern England. The Swansea dagger may be seen as a western outlier to the distribution, together with the four other known examples recorded from Wales. Daggers are generally understood to have been deposited with burials, often of Beaker tradition of the Early Bronze Age although a significant number have been deposited in other contexts, particularly wet contexts and this was likely to be true for the Swansea dagger. It is possible that the dagger's deposition was related to trackways eroding out of peat shelves exposed across Swansea Bay. Of particular interest is a trackway exposed in 2009 at Brynmill, less than 500m from the findspot of the dagger (Sherman 2011, p 9-11) and radiocarbon dated to 2140 - 1930 Cal BC (to 2 sigma; Beata 257022) and therefore broadly contemporary with the dagger. Although the trackway is not orientated towards the findspot of the dagger. Frieman (2014) lists 53 daggers from wet contexts, generally in rivers and bogs in Eastern England and suggests that daggers on the peripheries of the distribution are more likely to have originated from a funerary context, including two of the Welsh daggers.
Fine flint daggers can be seen as a significant part of the package related to status and cultural identity within increasingly competitive societies at the end of the 3rd millennium BC. Frieman argues that British flint daggers may be related to a personal or social attempt to connect with ancestral continental Beaker identities, as societies became increasingly regionalised, while also having an important function in reinforcing shared value-systems. The Swansea dagger deposited in a wetland context but also in a coastal 'transitional' location which appears to continue to act as a depositional focus for metalwork later in the Middle and Late Bronze age may be seen as significant and has the potential to contribute to these wider debates.

Find of note status

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

Class: Beaker
Sub class: leaf-shaped, short tanged

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Returned to finder


Broad period: BRONZE AGE
Subperiod from: Early
Period from: BRONZE AGE
Subperiod to: Early
Period to: BRONZE AGE
Date from: Circa 2250 BC
Date to: Exactly 2000 BC

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 1
Length: 113.2 mm
Width: 40.2 mm
Thickness: 9.5 mm
Weight: 41 g

Discovery dates

Date(s) of discovery: Tuesday 17th August 1971

Personal details

Recorded by: Mr Mark Lodwick
Identified by: Mr Mark Lodwick

Other reference numbers

Other reference: NMWPA 2016.53

Materials and construction

Primary material: Flint
Manufacture method: Knapped/flaked
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: Wales (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Swansea (Unitary Authority)
District: Swansea (Unitary Authority)
Parish or ward: Uplands (Community)

Spatial coordinates

4 Figure: SS6492
Four figure Latitude: 51.61035797
Four figure longitude: -3.96546788
1:25K map: SS6492
1:10K map: SS69SW
Grid reference source: From finder
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 100 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Other chance find
General landuse: Coastland
Specific landuse: Above high water

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: NMGW
Created: 3 years ago
Updated: 3 years ago

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