Where water wells up from the earth: excavations at the findspot of the Late Bronze Age Broadward hoard, Shropshire

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The fieldwork undertaken in 2010 sheds new light on accounts of the original discovery. The findspot recorded in the first edition Ordnance Survey map not only conforms to Victorian descriptions of the natural topography, it corresponds exactly to a peat-filled hollow containing animal bones and other artefacts. With the exception of a few examples from the western edge of the excavated area, they were confined to the immediate surroundings of the spring shown on the earliest Ordnance Survey map. The well – one of a series linked to a pumping house by a system of drains – had been excavated at precisely the same point. This area contained deposits of clay and peat, but they must have been disturbed by water issuing from the bedrock as the radiocarbon dates on the best-preserved animal bones showed no evidence of a coherent sequence.

The well cut the only subsoil feature that can be dated to the prehistoric period anywhere in the excavation: a pit containing a bone gouge with a radiocarbon date in the Middle to Late Bronze Age. Although only part of that pit survives it seems to have been large enough to have held the concreted mass of artefacts found in 1867. This feature must have been dug on the edge of the spring, and that may account for the poor quality of the original record. The hole dug for the well soon flooded, so that it would have been impossible to tell how the metalwork was related to the Roman pot from the same site. It is surely no coincidence that Rocke and Barnwell stated that the hoard was found ‘five or six feet below the surface’.35 That is not true of the Bronze Age pit, but it is the depth of the well, and the workmen may have emphasised the difficult conditions they experienced on the site.

With the exception of the bone gouge, a Late Bronze Age sherd and possibly a shale bracelet, the remaining artefacts found in 2010 relate to other phases in the history of the spring and its surroundings. The same is the case with all the animal bones submitted for radiocarbon dating. Their significance is considered in a later section of this paper.

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