Near-Pristine Bronze Age Spear Dated Over 3,000 Years Found in Britain
Spearheads are often seen as representing the ‘highest tradition of the Bronze Age’. This statement is exemplified by the discovery of a Bronze Age spear at a Thames Water sewage works in Cirencester, England. It was discovered during construction work at a new wetland habitat in the region, and has been dated to between 3,500 and 3,000 years old. Adding to the mystery and intrigue are the simultaneous discovery of dwellings that are dated to the Late Bronze Age, right up until the Roman period, reports the BBC.
A Dwelling and Prehistoric Tools
The Bronze Age in Britain lasted for roughly 1,700 years between 2,500 or 2,400 BC, up to 800 or 700 BC, subdivided into early (2500-1200 BC) and late (1200-700 BC) periods. Britain was under Roman occupation between 43 and 410 AD – it is roughly in this timeline that the dwellings are situated. The dig was under the aegis of local archaeologists at Cotswold Archaeology (CA), who are spearheading (there it is) a biodiversity project at this very spot.
The fieldwork revealed finds from many periods – six Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age timber roundhouses, two Roman trackways , and both pottery and animal bones. In addition, that prehistoric flint tools too have been found at the site. The archaeology team at Cotswold has sent it to their office in Cirencester for identification, examination, and cataloguing, with further plans of displaying it at Corinium Museum . The finds have also been shared on their official Twitter profile.
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Archaeologist Joe Price holding the Bronze Age spearhead they discovered recently. ( Cotswold Archaeology )
Discovered just a few feet under the ground earlier this year when work on the wildlife habitat was on in full swing, the Bronze Age spearhead has now been successfully identified and dated. Fortunately, the archaeology team at Cotswold was waiting in the wings, as Thames Water undertook this project with the expectation that a precious find like this could happen. They describe it as an “archaeologically rich landscape”.
In a press release by Thames Water, describing the ‘near pristine’ condition of the find, archaeologist Victoria Reeve said:
“We’re thrilled to have uncovered such interesting finds during our work at the site, including the spearhead which we believe to be thousands of years old and is still in great condition. We knew we were likely to come across something interesting while carrying out the work, which is why we had Cotswold Archaeology on site ready to record any archaeology that was present, but we were blown away by what we actually discovered."
Becky Elliott, Thames Water's biodiversity manager, who led the project, added, “We’re still working on the wetlands and hope to complete it in the coming months. At Thames Water we’re dedicated to supporting nature recovery across all our sites and providing better condition habitats with greater connectivity in which all kinds of wildlife can flourish.”
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One of the six Late Bronze Age to Early Iron Age timber roundhouses that was discovered, with visible postholes. ( Cotswold Archaeology)
An Archaeologically Rich Site and a Family Heirloom
The Project Manager at Cotswold Archaeology, Alex Thomson, provided lucid details about the how they went about the find. He says that the first scrape of the machine led to the appearance of the “beautiful spearhead”, which came out of the top of a Bronze Age pit. The site proved to have an archaeological potential that no one on the team suspected earlier. He added regarding the spearhead , “They’re a very rare find and exceptionally special artifacts. Believe me when I say, the preservation of this one is phenomenal.”
Why was the spearhead found here? The current guess is it was likely a family heirloom placed in a pit, for a reason yet ascertained. The team at CA further believes that some of the finds could be from ritual burials , but only further research can corroborate that. What Thomson can tell us is that this find is part of a larger settlement that was located in the 1990s, a trace to which can help provide a very interesting historical narrative of the region.
The new wetlands are slated to cover roughly 4 hectares (9.8 acres) of floodplain on the south end of the site, paving way for a new habitat to be created that will house amphibians, insects, migratory and wading birds. Thames Water ambitiously plans to increase biodiversity cover by 5% by 2025 at 250 of its sites. Their work primarily deals with grassland management, improving existing habitats which roughly cover over 4,000 hectares (9,888 acres).
Mr. Thomson concludes by saying, “We knew the site had archaeological potential, but we didn’t quite expect the extent of what we uncovered. It’s always exciting as you never know what you’re going to find – it could be absolutely nothing or, as in this instance, you could find more than you bargained for.”
Top image: Bronze Age spear found in Cirencester, England. Source: Thames Water
By Sahir Pandey
BBC. 2022. Bronze Age spearhead found at Cirencester sewage works . Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-61476377.
Thames Water. May 2022. Bronze Age spear discovered as Thames Water builds new wetlands. Available at: https://www.thameswater.co.uk/about-us/newsroom/latest-news/2022/may/cirencester-archaeology
Heritage Daily. 2022. Near-pristine Bronze Age spear discovered during wetlands construction . Available at: https://www.heritagedaily.com/2022/05/near-pristine-bronze-age-spear-discovered-during-wetlands-construction/143648