DOR-813231: Middle Bronze Age hoard: Rapier, palstave and rivet

Rights Holder: Somerset County Council
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Unique ID: DOR-813231

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

Potential Treasure case 2017 T1170

Middle Bronze Age hoard

Date of Discovery: 18th November 2017

Circumstances of Find: Metal detector with permission of land owner.

Date: Middle Bronze Age, Taunton phase (Ornament Horizon), c.1400-1300 BC

Description: A group of two Bronze Age copper alloy objects: an elaborately (carefully) bent rapier blade with one rivet (not detached) and a looped palstave axehead.

1. Palstave. A copper alloy looped palstave (axehead) in fair condition (much soil still adhering to its surface and difficult, therefore, to make a full assessment). Complete. Blade forged, sharpened and having seen use. A strong (c.8mm wide) mid-rib extends from the bar stop to the start of the cutting surface of the blade. Wide blade, splays out at corners. Class 5 in Rowlands typological scheme (1976, 34-6).

Dimensions: Length: 145mm; Blade width (cutting surface): 60mm; Bar-stop width: 24mm; Flages width: 34mm; Weight: 364.2g (with some soil adhering, not final weight).

2. Rapier and rivet from hilt plate. A complete copper alloy rapier (Middle Bronze Age bladed weapon with relatively narrow, piercing form), bent into a figure of eight profile through skilled manipulation of the blade. One copper alloy rivet from the open (rivet notched) butt remains in association with the object and suggest that the bending may have taken place while the handle was still at least partially attached. Rapier has a complex cross-section: a mid-rib and two steps before the cutting edge is reached. The tip has been bent, probably in antiquity. The butt appears to have been damaged close to one of the rivet notches. Soil adhering to surfaces makes a full examination of the original patina difficult to assess but it is clear that there are areas of corrosion, especially around the edges of the blade, which should be addressed. Group III in Gerloff & Burgess 's typological scheme (1981).

Dimensions: Length: in folded condition: 185mm; Length: measured with soft tape to determine original length of blade: 560mm; Width (at hilt plate, max.): 60mm; Weight: 304.6g (with some soil adhering, not final weight).

Rivet now detached from rapier dimensions: Thickness (at top: 15mm; at bottom: 11mm), Diameter of rivet head: 1omm; Weight: 6.5g.

Discussion:The palstave and rapier blade described above can be best placed in the Taunton phase of the Middle Bronze Age (c.1400-1300 BC). This find is particularly notable for the elaborate way in which the rapier blade has been manipulated into a figure of 8, requiring skilled control of force and temperature and knowledge of the properties of the metal. The act of bending this blade may well have been a significant act and the hoard forms an important addition to the Bronze Age finds of Somerset.

Conclusion:As a find of two copper alloy objects of prehistoric date, objects Nos. 1-2 qualify as Treasure under the stipulations of the Treasure Act 1996 (Designation Order 2002).


Burgess, C., and Gerloff, S. 1981. The Dirks and Rapiers of Great Britain and Ireland, Munchen: C. H. Beck'sche Verlagsbuchandlung

Rowlands, M. J, 1976. The Production and Distribution of Metalwork in the Middle Bronze Age in Southern Britain, BAR 3 I (i&ii)


Neil Wilkin, Curator, British Museum

August 2019

Subsequent actions

Subsequent action after recording: Acquired by museum after being declared Treasure

Treasure details

Treasure case tracking number: 2017T1170


Broad period: BRONZE AGE
Subperiod from: Middle
Period from: BRONZE AGE
Subperiod to: Middle
Period to: BRONZE AGE
Date from: Circa 1400 BC
Date to: Circa 1300 BC

Dimensions and weight

Quantity: 3

Personal details

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Other reference numbers

Treasure case number: 2017T1170

Materials and construction

Primary material: Copper alloy
Completeness: Complete

Spatial metadata

Region: South West (European Region)
County or Unitary authority: Somerset (County)
District: South Somerset (District)
To be known as: Henstridge

Spatial coordinates

Grid reference source: GPS (From FLO)
Unmasked grid reference accurate to a 1 metre square.

Discovery metadata

Method of discovery: Metal detector
General landuse: Cultivated land

References cited

No references cited so far.

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Timeline of associated dates

Audit data

Recording Institution: DOR
Created: 4 years ago
Updated: 2 years ago

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