Wissett Hoards, Detailed Description

Halesworth Archaeology
The Wissett Hoards   Wissett Hoards, Detailed Description  The Bramfield Hoard

The Items

Hoard 1 (click on the image for a very large picture)

Hoard 2 (click on the image for a very large picture)

BRONZE AGE HOARDS FROM WISSETT

(WSS020) Bronze Age Hoard from Wissett near Halesworth Suffolk.

On the 5th January 2011, six Middle Bronze Age shield pattern palstaves (axes) were found by metal detecting on cultivated land in the parish of Wissett.

Description: A hoard of Bronze Age copper-alloy metalwork comprising six Middle Bronze Age palstaves which appear to have been deposited in pairs within a small hole, with each pair positioned so that the blade end of the top axe met the butt end of the lower. All the palstaves show signs of active copper-alloy corrosion. A hoard of five palstaves, two side-looped spearheads, one rapier blade in two fragments and one pegged spearhead was found nearby.

1. Complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration below the stop ridge. The casting seams have been polished out and the sides have vertical ridges level with the stop ridge. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a splayed crescentic blade. The blade has been extensively used and resharpened with long linear use marks. A slight central ridge extends from the shield pattern on each face of the blade. The entire palstave has a green patina with pitting and patches of active copper- alloy corrosion in places.

Max Length: 159.57mm Weight: 564.1g

2. Complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration below the stop ridge. The casting seams have been polished out and the sides have vertical ridges level with the stop ridge. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a crescentic blade with parallel bevel. There are extensive linear abrasions resulting from use-wear on the faces of the blade. Recent damage to the stop ridge shows a bronze coloured metal beneath, the remainder of the axe has a green patina.

Max Length: 157.27mm Weight: 416.3g

3. Complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration below the stop ridge. The casting seams have been polished out and the sides have vertical ridges level with the stop ridge. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a worn and corroded crescentric blade with parallel sharpening bevel. The blade edge is slightly damaged; long linear use marks extend down its length. A slight central ridge extends from the shield pattern on each face of the blade. An area of relatively unpatinated blade show a very silvery metal, otherwise the axe has a green patina. The silvery appearance is noted on other examples in this group, and may also be from the same mould as 4.

Max Length: 168.24mm Weight: 541.4g

4. Complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration below the stop ridge. The casting seams/flashing around the sides and at the blade end of the axe remain intact and the blade is unsharpened. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a worn and corroded crescentric blade with extensive corrosion. There is a semi-circular notch on one side of the butt end. The entire axe is very silver in colour suggesting a high lead or tin content in the alloy. It is possibly from the same mould as 3.

Max Length: 167.4mm Weight: 540.7g

5. Complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration containing three vertical ribs below the stop ridge. The casting seams have been polished out and the sides have vertical ridges level with the stop ridge. The axe extends to a splayed, crescentic blade that is slightly recurved with flattened ends. It shows signs of damage with extensive sharpening and linear use-wear on the blade.

Max Length: 153.42mm Weight: 484g

6. Complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration below the stop ridge. The shield pattern contains 3 vertical ribs on one face and five on the other. The casting seams remain visible on the sides of the axe. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a slightly curved blade that is damaged due to corrosion. Only limited signs of use-wear.

Max Length: 161.42mm Weight: 446.6g

The six complete palstaves with shield pattern decoration below the stop ridge date to the ACTON PARK metalwork phase (c1500=1400BC) of the Middle Bronze Age. They belong to Early Palstaves Group 1 and in Eastern England are particularly concentrated in Cambridgeshire/Norfolk. The silver colouration to at least two of them is unusual, indicative of an alloy with a high lead or tin content (well documented in the Acton Park phase). The unfinished nature of one example demonstrates possible deposition shortly after and in proximity to the place of production. The neat arrangement within the ground also demonstrates their careful deposition.

 

(WSS021) Bronze Hoard from Wissett near Halesworth Suffolk

On the 18th January 2011, five palstaves (axes), two side looped spearheads (one complete), one rapier blade in two fragments and one pegged spearhead were found by metal detecting on cultivated land in the parish of Wissett, and was then excavated with the help of Suffolk County Council Archaeology Service. A hoard of six shield pattern palstaves (WSS020) was found nearby.

1a. Developed side-looped spearhead (2 joining fragments). Recovered from the metal detected backfill of the pit and joining to the blade fragment (1b.) and a further fragment of the blade (1c.) recovered previously. The socket end and one side of the blade survive. The socket end is slightly mis-cast and retains large casting sprues. It has small side loops to either side of the socket.

Max Length: 146.04mm Weight: 93.4g

1b. An incomplete joining fragment from the tip of the side-looped spearhead. It is triangular in form with circular midrib.

Max Length: 95.67mm Weight: 28.4g

1c. A joining fragment from the wing of the side-looped spearhead; part of the blade and midrib is preserved.

Max Length: 33.20mm Weight: 4.6g

2a. A fragment from the blade of a rapier (Group II). It has a rounded midrib and shows signs of extensive corrosion. One face has a mainly bronze coloured surface, the other is a patinated mid-brown in colour.

Max Length: 100.34mm Weight: 63.7g

2b. A fragment from near the tip of a rapier blade (possibly from the same blade as 2a). There is a marked blade edge bevel and extensive corrosion on all surfaces similar to that of 2a.

Max Length: 83.33mm Weight: 28.1g

3. A complete unlooped palstave with shied pattern decoration below the stop ridge. The casting seams have been polished out and the sides have vertical ridges level with the stop ridge. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a crescentric blade with flattened ends with numerous linear grooves from use-wear and resharpening. Some areas of the surfaces show a possible silvery coloured metal (perhaps with high tin or lead content) similar to examples in a previous hoard (WSS020).

Max Length: 173.41mm Weight: 660.5g

4. A complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration and slight rib below the stop ridge. The casting seams have been polished out and the sides have vertical ridges level with the stop ridge. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a crescentic blade with parallel sharpening bevel and numerous sharpening abrasion marks. It has a dark brown patina with patches of pale green and bright blue corrosion.

Max Length: 153.40mm Weight: 416g

5. An incomplete pegged spearhead, the socket end is highly corroded and now in numerous small fragments. The blade has a cast edge bevel with round midrib. The socket end has only one peg-hole now visible. The blade has a bright bronze colour covering 40%, the remainder has a mid to dark brown patina.
Max Length: 156mm (excluding socket) Weight: 182.94g

6. A complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration and slight rib below the stop ridge. It retains its casting seams and appears to be unsharpened and unused. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a crescentic blade that has a prominent casting seam along its outer edge. It has a marked silvery appearance to the metal (high tin or lead content?) and is probably cast from the same mould as number 8 below, and examples in the other contemporary hoard WSS020.

Max Length: 179.70mm Weight: 527g

7. A near complete side-looped spearhead with casting flashes still present indicating that it was never used. It is missing the very tip. The spearhead has a narrow blade with prominent mid-rib and complete side-loops to either side of the oddly square (rather than circular) socket end. Like examples of axes in this and WSS020, it has a very silvery appearance suggesting a high tin or lead content.

Max Length: 179.70mm Weight: 80.1g

8. A complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration and slight rib below the stop ridge. The casting seams have been polished out and the sides have vertical ridges level with the stop ridge. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a slightly curved blade that is sharpened and has some linear use wear and sharpening grooves. The palstave has a silvery appearance with high tin or lead content in the alloy and is probably from the same mould as no. 6. Max Length: 169.35mm Weight: 555.4g

9. A complete unlooped palstave with shield pattern decoration and slight rib below the stop ridge. Beneath the stop ridge the axe extends to a crescentic blade that has a parallel edge bevel. The blade itself is extensively used. Along both sides the palstave has diagonal decoration similar to that frequently found on flanged axes (but not usually seen on palstaves). The axe has a dark brown patina.

Max Length: 148.53mm Weight 363g

The two Developed side looped spearheads with low blade base are dated to the Middle Bronze Age and are prevalent during the late ACTON PARK – TAUNTON metalwork phases (c.1500-1250BC). The five shield pattern palstaves date to the ACTON PARK metalwork phase (c. 1500-1400BC); and the Group II rapier fragments are contemporary.

The pegged spearhead (no. 5) has a similar blade shape and would be classified similarly – apart from having pegholes instead of side loops.

Research on Early and Middle Bronze Age spearheads in Britain by Richard Davis aims to place this unique spearhead within the context of existing knowledge on Bronze Age spears.

There are only 8 ‘Early Socketed’ spearheads from Britain with pegholes and 22 with side loops which all date to the ARRETON phase (c. 1700-1500BC) which precedes the ACTON PARK phase.

There are two ‘Wide blade with short midrib’ spearheads with pegholes and no loops, and a further 41 with side loops. These all date to the early ACTON PARK phase (c. 1500-1400BC). There is just one Developed side looped spearhead with pegholes from Britain (Clifton Notts.).

The Wissett pegged spearpoint blade is rather large (162mm) and with the socket reconstituted, it would have a total length of approximately 255mm.This is unusually large. The earliest Late Bronze Age pegged spearheads are attributed to the PENARD phase (c. 1300-1150BC), which is inconsistent with all the other Wissett artefacts.

This spearhead from Wissett can therefore be classified as an extremely rare variant of the common developed side looped spearheads dating to the late ACTON PARK to early TAUNTON metalwork phases (c. 1500-1300BC).

This spearhead provided evidence to contradict the assertion* that there were no pegged spearheads in the ACTON PARK or TAUNTON metalwork phases. It also appears to be the first time that Developed side-looped spearheads have been found in association with shield pattern palstaves although they have been dated to the same metalwork phase.

The silvery appearance of several of the artefacts may well reflect a high lead or tin content in the bronze which is well documented in the ACTON PARK and, to a lesser extent, TAUNTON metalwork phases.

*Burgess 1968