Detectorist Finds Bronze Age Treasure Cache With Sword In Scotland
In fiction, treasure hunters cut through dense jungles, dive down to dangerous shipwrecks, and search the Holy Land looking for buried artifacts with high market value in an industry fueled by rare antiquities. But in the real world, on June 21, 2020, an amateur metal detectorist uncovered an exceptionally rare Bronze Age treasure hoard in a field near the village of Peebles, about 22 miles (36 kilometers) south of Edinburgh. The prize of this Bronze Age treasure cache was a rare and priceless 3,000-year-old sword. While the sword was not jewel encrusted, it will provide gems of archaeological data pertaining to a time in Scottish history from which only a few artifacts have ever been recovered.
What the Bronze Age treasure hoard looked like when it was first found in the ground. #7 in the center is the sword with scabbard. (SketchFab)
Bronze Age Treasure Finder Reported and Guarded the Find
A PHYS article about the metal detectorist Mariusz Stepien, 44, says he “shook” with happiness when he realized his find might be something “spectacular,” and potentially “a big part of Scottish history.” And following UK law to the letter, Stepien and his friends immediately contacted the Scottish government's Treasure Trove who sent a team of archaeologists to the site.
But there was no way Mr Stepien was taking his eyes off the loot and he set up a camp site and slept rough in the treasure field for 22 nights while archaeologists excavated the Bronze Age treasure hoard which included “a horse harness, buckles, rings, ornaments, a sword still in its scabbard and axle caps from a chariot.” These finds are now being studied in Edinburgh at the National Museums Collection Center.
Key items from the Bronze Age treasure find in Scotland, thought to be pieces of a Bronze Age horse harness, found by amateur metal detectorist, Mariusz Stepien in June 2020. Source: Treasure Trove Scotland
Scottish Bronze Age Treasure: A Nationally Significant Find
In a Southern Reporter article Mr Stepien said he will never forget those 22 days spent in the field where every day “there were new objects coming out which changed the context of the find,” and he expressed how delighted he was to have helped unearth artifacts dating more than 3,000 years old. The archaeologists recovered decorated straps, buckles, rings, ornaments and chariot wheel axle caps, along with evidence of a decorative rattle pendant, but the jewel in the crown of this hoard was a sword still in its scabbard. This exceptionally rare sword represents “the first” of its type ever discovered in Scotland, and only the third found anywhere in the UK to date.
Because the soil had preserved the organic elements of the hoard the archaeologists were able to trace the leather straps that once connected the Bronze rings, discs and buckles together to form a horse’s harness. Emily Freeman, the head of the Scottish Treasure Trove unit, said that because so few Bronze Age treasure hoards have been excavated in Scotland it was an amazing opportunity for her team not only to recover bronze artifacts, but to study rare organic material as well. She described the collection as “a nationally significant find.”
And this sentiment was supported by the Queen ’s and Lord Treasurer ’s remembrancer David Harvie who said the Bronze Age treasure hoard is “highly significant and promises to give us a new insight into Scotland ’s history” and he thanked the finder for his quick actions in contacting the treasure trove unit.
An Early Bronze Age flat axe head found not far from where the recent treasure trove was found in Peeblesshire, Scotland (Treasure Trove Scotland)
Peebles County: A Known Bronze Age Treasure Chest
Peeblesshire, the County of Peebles, or Tweeddale, is a historic county in southern Scotland bordering Midlothian to the north, Selkirkshire to the east, Dumfriesshire to the south, and Lanarkshire to the west. The only comparable collection of Late Bronze Age objects ever discovered in Scotland was also discovered in Peebleshire in 1864 by Mr Linton of Glenrath beneath a large field stone among the scree of Horsehope Craiin in Manor parish.
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Known as the Horse Hope Craig Hoard the bulk of this collection of Bronze Age treasures has been kept preserved in the Museum of the Chambers Institute in Peebles since its discovery and includes twenty eight pieces, with one of two “socketed axes” on exhibition at the National Museum of Antiquities of Scotland. Dated to the 7th and 6th centuries BC, as is the newly discovered treasure hoard, the Horse Hope Craig Hoard included classic bronze elements like horse-harnesses and mountings from a cart.
Top image: Metal-detectorist Mariusz Stepien standing where the Bronze age treasure hoard was found in Peebles near Edinburgh. Source: Southern Reporter
By Ashley Cowie