3,000-year-old broken weapons in Scotland

3,000-year-old broken weapons found in Scotland loch reveal ancient ritual offerings to gods

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Pieces of ancient, bronze sword blades and spearheads have been unearthed by archaeologists in Scotland. The pieces had been intentionally broken and thrown into a freshwater loch some 3,000 years ago in what is believed to be a ritual offering.

Broken artifact found in what used to be an ancient freshwater lake.

Broken artifact found in what used to be an ancient freshwater lake. Credit: RSPB Scotland

The ancient bronze weapons were discovered on a nature reserve on the Isle of Coll, in Scotland's Southern Hebrides. According to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) press release , twelve artifacts from at least seven different weapons were excavated from an area that was once a freshwater lake (loch).

Various artifacts recovered by archaeologists in Scotland.

Various artifacts recovered by archaeologists in Scotland. Credit: RSPB Scotland

“This is the first discovery of this size from Argyll for many years,” said Jill Harden, RSPB Scotland Reserves Archaeologist.

It is believed that 3,000 years ago the items were purposely broken and then thrown into the loch during a ceremony.

Countless artifacts; spears, bows, arrows, lances, shields, jewelry and more have been pulled from bogs dating to the Iron Age in northern Europe and Scandinavia. Often via boat, items were thrown in lakes and bogs intentionally, sometimes as offerings to deities, and other times as the destruction of captured possessions of enemies. Items were often deliberately bent, snapped or hacked into pieces in these ritual sacrificial acts.

Objects, iron axes and shield bosses, discovered in Nydam Bog, Denmark.

Objects, iron axes and shield bosses, discovered in Nydam Bog, Denmark. ( CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Last year archaeologists in Denmark found the skeletal remains of an entire army of Iron Age soldiers that had been cast into a lake near the Alken Enge wetlands in East Jutland. The bones had been gruesomely broken up and thrown into the water in a ritualized fashion.

A number of Bronze Age child skulls discovered around the perimeter of ancient settlements in Switzerland and Germany showed signs of violent death, and it’s thought the children’s skulls may have been offered as gifts for the local lake gods.

“For residents of the British Isles, many local bodies of water such as streams and wells were host to water spirits – and often these took on the role of local deity. Historians say it became a popular custom to toss a bit of silver — coins, pins, etc — into a sacred body of water as an offering to the god or goddess of that area,” writes Water Folklore and Legend s.

These ancient beliefs are also said to be linked to the age-old tradition of throwing coins or other valuables into bodies of water, fountains, and wishing wells.

Scottish news site The National reports that unanswered questions remain about the lives of the people who lived on the Isle of Coll thousands of years ago. Although artifacts were discovered in the 19 th century in the west of Scotland, very little is known about the precise places they were found. These new finds on Coll may help shed light on the ancient practices of Scotland.  It is also hoped further study will determine if such offerings were prompted by ancient changes in the natural environment.

Archaeological studies are regularly done on the reserve to “improve its understanding of Scotland’s environment as a whole,” explains The National.

Excavationist working at the excavation site on the Isle of Coll.

Excavationist working at the excavation site on the Isle of Coll. Credit: RSPB Scotland

The artifacts were given to the Kilmartin Museum for conservation, and are being displayed at the An Cridhe community center on the Isle of Coll. Experts will be on hand this week to give details on the discoveries and discuss further plans for archaeological excavations.

Featured Image: Broken bronze sword blades and spearheads found by archaeologist on the Isle of Coll, Scotland, date back 3,000 years. Credit: RSPB Scotland

By Liz Leafloor

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