Bronze Age hoard discovered at Carnoustie
Archaeologists working in advance of the construction of two football pitches in Carnoustie, Angus, have recently discovered a major addition to Scottish Late Bronze Age archaeology.
The edge of a gold decorated bronze spearhead was first spotted in a pit during excavations by GUARD Archaeology, working on behalf of Angus Council.
Owing to the fragile nature of the remains, the entire pit and surrounding subsoil was removed as an 80kg block of soil and taken for specialist analysis.
Examining the finds
The soil block was first CT-scanned and x-rayed by the School of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Glasgow, with assistance from Gawain Hammond, Head of the Diagnostic Imaging Unit, and his team. The scan and x-ray provided valuable information and imagery to assist in the recovery of the items from the soil block.
The subsequent excavation of the soil block, at GUARD Archaeology's Finds Lab, revealed that the spearhead was accompanied by a bronze sword, pin and scabbard fittings.
Prior to the excavation, a number of archaeological cropmarks had been recorded in the wider landscape, while immediately to the east, under what is now a housing estate, a previous archaeological excavation in 2004 had revealed extensive evidence of prehistoric and medieval activity.
Some of the other archaeology on site consists of clusters of large pits containing discarded, broken pots and lithic artefacts. It is unclear yet if the archaeological remains comprise a settlement that lasted from the Neolithic until the Late Bronze Age or if it comprises several settlements built upon the same site but separated in time by many centuries.
The Late Bronze Age metalwork was buried in one of the pits, close to a roundhouse that cut through the large Neolithic hall. The hoard comprises a gold decorated bronze spearhead, a bronze sword, a lead and tin sword pommel, bronze scabbard mount and chape, and a bronze pin. From preliminary examination, these artefacts may date to around 1000 – 800 BC.
A rare find
The Carnoustie hoard is also unusual in that it contains extremely rare organic remains - a wooden scabbard that encased the sword blade (probably the best preserved Late Bronze Age sword scabbard ever found in Britain), fur skin around the spearhead, and textile around the pin and scabbard.
Because the hoard is not an isolated find but was buried within a Late Bronze Age settlement, it will be possible to study the archaeological context of the hoard, revealing new insights into the local Bronze Age community that buried it.
The hoard is now undergoing specialist analyses by a team of finds experts from across Britain, led by GUARD Archaeology, to reveal more about the individual artefacts and the context of their burial, which may explain why this hoard was buried here.
For more on the work of GUARD Archaeology visit their website.
Images © GUARD Archaeology Ltd. Captions from top: The Bronze Age Hoard as it was first revealed during excavations at Carnoustie; : The Bronze Age Hoard revealed during the excavation in the GUARD Finds Lab