endlessrarities: (Default)
Since I've been besotted with all matters prehistoric over the last couple of days, I thought I'd continue the theme tonight with a brief acknowledgement of Shropshire's Bronze Age archaeology.

A monument of note first - Mitchell's Fold Stone Circle.

As stone circles go, this one has unfortunately seen better days.  The technical term archaeologists would use to describe it is unrepeatable - let's just call it 'knackered'.  Fifteen stones are allegedly still standing, though I could only count thirteen when I visited it:-


It's the setting of this monument that makes it truly spectacular.  As is frequently the case with these monuments, it occupies a prominent setting in the landscape, with a backdrop of the Stiperstones in one direction, and the hills of Wales in the other. 

But alas, the monument itself has suffered the ravages of time.  It is scarred by later cultivation activties, and by this trackway, which will have caused untold damage to the fragile archaeology beneath the surface.  Enough remains, though, for us to marvel at it:-


In Shrewsbury itself, more evidence of prehistoric occupation in the area is found in the museum.  There are the obligatory cremation urns, of Middle Bronze Age date:-


Note, too the stone axe mould to the right of the picture, within which were cast flat axes.  I suspect this may be the famous axe mould from Gwithian, but at the time I was too bamboozled by another little treasure to take much notice.  This is featured below:-




Not being a prehistoric pottery specialist, I couldn't tell you if this is classed as some kind of food vessel, or a vase-type urn, or what.  What I can tell you is that it is totally weird - the label proudly proclaimed that it's the only double form of this type known in the UK, and I certainly can't remember seeing one in my life before! 

All of these pottery types are commonly found accmpanying cremation burials.

I have to admit, though,that my favourite exhibit was this one:-



It's the Guilsfield Hoard - an old friend of mine from my postgraduate days.  It's one of the so-called 'Wilburton' Hoards - named after a find from the WIlburton Fens in Cambridgeshire.  The WIlburton Phase is the first flowering of Late Bronze Age metalworking in the UK - characterised by leaf-shaped swords (few and far between before this point), socketed axes (ditto) and pegged (as opposed to looped) spearheads.  It is also the point where lead is consistently added to the copper/tin alloy in order to make the liquid bronze flow more freely and therefore create more complex (though more brittle) castings.

Some key Wilburton indicators are the massive scabbard chapes (the tapering object in the centre of right hand trio of objects) and the tube-like spear ferrules (to either side of the chape). 

There are also some rather magnificent speaheads to be found - but not at Guilsfield, unfortunately, which has the rather plain pegged examples featured to the left of the ferrules and chapes.  And - of course - the obligatory socketed axe,,,,

endlessrarities: (Default)

Ah, so Neil Oliver finally did the late Late Bronze Age....

And I've finally parted company with his interpretations...

In last night's episode of The History of Celtic Britain, there was much talk of The Bronze Crisis.  To those who weren't watching Neil Oliver last night, the Bronze Crisis manifests itself in the form of massive hoards of bronze objects dumped in the ground and never recovered.  And I just don't get it.

Some background information for the uninitiated.  Various phases of the Bronze Age are divided according to the metalwork types occurring.  The final phase of the Bronze Age is called the Llyn Fawr phase, and last night, we were introduced to two hoards from this period.  The first was the classic 'type' hoard - the Llyn Fawr hoard - which was put forward as a 'ritual' hoard - it has swords, axes, tools and a whacking great cauldron.  The second was a recent find, the name of which escapes me, which featured a whole load of axeheads which had been dumped straight from the moulds into the ground, without even being prepared for use.

The traditional view is that these hoards are a manifestation of economic crisis.  Bronze founders - in a desperate attempt to maintain the value of their commodity in the face of competition from the great competitor, iron - bury vast quantities in order to maintain the scarcity level.  Hence the hoards.  They are a symptom of an industry in a state of collapse.

Over the last few decades, this view was losing ground.  How could bronze be functioning as a commodity in a small-scale traditonal society (think Papua New Guinea, NW America)?  Add to that the problems with the evidence.  Usually when something loses value, it trickles downwards through all tiers of society and the whole world is awash with it.  This does not happen in the British Late Bronze Age.  And the huge hoards are pretty much concentrated in southern England.  In the north and west, business goes on very much as usual.  The Llyn Fawr hoard demonstrates this perfectly: a 'ritual' hoard, containing scarce, special objects, buried at a time when just a few hundred miles away, the bronze 'market' is allegedly in freefall.

Last night, the Bronze Crisis reared its ugly head once more.  It has been reworked and reshaped for a new generation.  But I'm given the distinct impression that it has changed profoundly through the years.  The hoards are no longer ascribed to the actions of metalworkers desperate to preserve their livelihoods:  they now seem to be ascribed to the actions of a social and political elite who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  But the principle remains the same: it's economic, industrial.

And I'm as unconvinced by it now as I was twenty years ago.  It certainly sounds like there was a crisis in the tail end of the Bronze Age, but I'd interpret it as a religious crisis rather than an economic one.  Perhaps the old ways of propitiating the gods/ancestors just weren't working, and perhaps that resulted in a cycle of inflation which manifested itself as ever-bigger and more-hastily accumulated hoards.  Then the whole thing cracked and the offerings changed to the fruits of the agricultural cycle.

Ah well.  Fifteen years ago, when I was a younger firebrand, I'd have signed up for the next conference and presented my doubts to a wider audience in the form of a paper.  But middle aged apathy has struck.  I am content with my munitions factory, and, well...  Does it really matter what anyone thinks, anyway?  Though I must confess: I'm darned glad I got my thesis published before now!!!

Sorry about the ruminations about something which probably means nothing.  I don't even have any pretty pictures which can help make this post more palatable.  Some day I''ll get started on the tortous subject of Bronze Age metalwork, and then you'll probably run away screaming with despair pretty quick!!
endlessrarities: (Default)

Ah, so Neil Oliver finally did the late Late Bronze Age....

And I've finally parted company with his interpretations...

In last night's episode of The History of Celtic Britain, there was much talk of The Bronze Crisis.  To those who weren't watching Neil Oliver last night, the Bronze Crisis manifests itself in the form of massive hoards of bronze objects dumped in the ground and never recovered.  And I just don't get it.

Some background information for the uninitiated.  Various phases of the Bronze Age are divided according to the metalwork types occurring.  The final phase of the Bronze Age is called the Llyn Fawr phase, and last night, we were introduced to two hoards from this period.  The first was the classic 'type' hoard - the Llyn Fawr hoard - which was put forward as a 'ritual' hoard - it has swords, axes, tools and a whacking great cauldron.  The second was a recent find, the name of which escapes me, which featured a whole load of axeheads which had been dumped straight from the moulds into the ground, without even being prepared for use.

The traditional view is that these hoards are a manifestation of economic crisis.  Bronze founders - in a desperate attempt to maintain the value of their commodity in the face of competition from the great competitor, iron - bury vast quantities in order to maintain the scarcity level.  Hence the hoards.  They are a symptom of an industry in a state of collapse.

Over the last few decades, this view was losing ground.  How could bronze be functioning as a commodity in a small-scale traditonal society (think Papua New Guinea, NW America)?  Add to that the problems with the evidence.  Usually when something loses value, it trickles downwards through all tiers of society and the whole world is awash with it.  This does not happen in the British Late Bronze Age.  And the huge hoards are pretty much concentrated in southern England.  In the north and west, business goes on very much as usual.  The Llyn Fawr hoard demonstrates this perfectly: a 'ritual' hoard, containing scarce, special objects, buried at a time when just a few hundred miles away, the bronze 'market' is allegedly in freefall.

Last night, the Bronze Crisis reared its ugly head once more.  It has been reworked and reshaped for a new generation.  But I'm given the distinct impression that it has changed profoundly through the years.  The hoards are no longer ascribed to the actions of metalworkers desperate to preserve their livelihoods:  they now seem to be ascribed to the actions of a social and political elite who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.  But the principle remains the same: it's economic, industrial.

And I'm as unconvinced by it now as I was twenty years ago.  It certainly sounds like there was a crisis in the tail end of the Bronze Age, but I'd interpret it as a religious crisis rather than an economic one.  Perhaps the old ways of propitiating the gods/ancestors just weren't working, and perhaps that resulted in a cycle of inflation which manifested itself as ever-bigger and more-hastily accumulated hoards.  Then the whole thing cracked and the offerings changed to the fruits of the agricultural cycle.

Ah well.  Fifteen years ago, when I was a younger firebrand, I'd have signed up for the next conference and presented my doubts to a wider audience in the form of a paper.  But middle aged apathy has struck.  I am content with my munitions factory, and, well...  Does it really matter what anyone thinks, anyway?  Though I must confess: I'm darned glad I got my thesis published before now!!!

Sorry about the ruminations about something which probably means nothing.  I don't even have any pretty pictures which can help make this post more palatable.  Some day I''ll get started on the tortous subject of Bronze Age metalwork, and then you'll probably run away screaming with despair pretty quick!!

Profile

endlessrarities: (Default)
endlessrarities

January 2013

S M T W T F S
  1 234 5
6789101112
13141516171819
202122 232425 26
2728293031  

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 21st, 2017 05:17 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios