Finds recorded with the Portable Antiquities Scheme
Peter Reavill, Finds Liaison Officer (Shropshire and Herefordshire)
DONNINGTON, Polished Neolithic Flint Axehead
Precise provenance known but withheld. The axehead was discovered by Mr Richard Dawe during construction work and reported to Peter Reavill, FLO Shropshire and Herefordshire.
More photographs of the flint axehead are available on the PAS website
A complete but slightly damaged knapped, ground and polished flint axehead of probable later Neolithic date (2900-2100 BC). The axe is knapped from a mid-orange coloured flint with considerable mid - pale yellow and milky white inclusions. This axe is broadly sub-rectangular in plan and sub-oval (humped) in cross section - it is best classed as a thick butted type axe. In plan the sides of the axe taper from the widest point at the cutting edge to a relatively narrow rounded butt. One long edge tapers more than the other edge. The axe measures 179.5mm length, 72.1mm width (at cutting edge), and is 40.9mm thick. It weighs 587 grams.
The sides of the axe have clear well defined side facets which extend from the cutting edge to the butt of the axe. The cutting edge is also formed from several facets. In places these faces have been polished away, presumably through sharpening. The cutting edge is complete and well defined, it is crescent shaped in plan. The butt of the axe is complete but has been damaged and several flake scars are present. The axe has also been damaged in several other areas. The first area of significant damage is at the butt of the axehead. Here the damage is twofold, first is the relatively recent damage. This has been caused by movement in the burial environment resulting in a number of hinge fractures caused by direct uncontrolled blunt blows. However, on the opposite face at the butt are at least two narrow flakes. These flakes remove the polished surface of the axe and have clear regular conchoidal factures present. This would suggest some element of reworking prior to deposition. The cutting edge of the blade has also suffered and this has resulted in the removal of several distinct flakes and a series of chunks and chips. Again this damage is most likely caused by movement in the ploughsoil. One other area of damage should be noted; this is evident on both faces of the axe and the damage is in the form of several slight dished flakes, evidence of abrasion through deep scratches and several small chips. These all have a patina and are located at approximately the mid-point of the axe, behind the hump in profile. These areas of damage may come from a deliberate attempt to roughen the surface of the axe in the Neolithic to provide a better grip for the hafting; similar areas of damage have been observed on other axes.
It is impossible to securely source flint axes but many people suggest that this coloured 'honey' flint with white inclusions is most common in the South of Britain specifically Dorset and also in the low countries / Netherlands; a similar honey coloured flint is common in Yorkshire but does not have as many inclusions. The surface of the axe is well polished, however, there are a number of small holes, these are most likely to be flaws in the surface matrix, where inclusions such as fossils have been. This suggests that the axe follows the broad shape of the nodule it was knapped from, and although the surface cortex has been completely removed these flaws which are near the surface remain. The nature of this flint is also interesting in the amount of variation in colour and amount of white inclusions; this may suggest some form of detailed selection being made of the flint prior to knapping. It also shows the aesthetic value of these artefacts as objects as well as functional tools. Axes mean more to Neolithic society than just being a tool; they would have had various other functions and shown the wealth, power and importance of the owner. It is likely they were passed down through families and generations and were often deposited in special, meaningful and significant ways. The findspot, near to an area of low lying heathland could therefore be significant.
After recording the artefact was returned to the finder. Thanks are extended to Mr Phil Watson (BMAG) and Dr Keith Ray (County Archaeologist, Herefordshire) for their comments.
WELLINGTON AREA, Polden Hill style Colchester derivative brooch
(HESH-850C02) dated to the early Roman period (43-120 AD)
Precise provenance known but withheld. The artefact was found by Jeremy Daw whilst metal detecting and reported to Peter Reavill, FLO Herefordshire and Shropshire.
More photographs of the brooch are available on the PAS website
An incomplete cast copper alloy Colchester derivative two part (Polden Hill style) brooch of Roman date (43-120 AD). The wings are complete being semi-cylindrical in plan with pierced end caps. The axis bar, most of the spring and pin are lost. The axis bar was formed from an iron length of square sectioned wire. The spring is partially preserved and consists of three turns with an external chord. A sub-rectangular hollow is present on the reverse of the head of the brooch and does not extend into the wings; this is filled with a grey brown coloured substance, possibly an adhesive paste to hold the pin / spring. The external chord of the spring would have fitted to a rearward facing hook located at the centre of the wings on the upper edge. This hook is well preserved and decorated, possibly in the style of a snakes head: two incised ovals are present on either edge, possibly representing eyes. The hook is a flared triangular shape. The bow head is hump-like, and angular (comma-shaped) in profile. The bow is D-shaped in cross section. It extends to a turned and decorated foot knop. The catch-plate is cast and formed from a sub-triangular cast ridge or rib which extends from a point below the head / hump of the bow. The catchplate is broadly sub-triangular and the outer edge is turned / cast to form a U-shaped pin rest. The outer edge of the rest is lost through abrasion. Below the catchplate a collared and turned foot knop extends. It terminates in a small stud at the base of the foot. The collar around the foot knop is heavily decorated. The brooch measures 66.6mm length, is 30.6mm width across wings, 12.4mm width across bow, is 10.4mm thick across the bow (at the same point). It weighs 44.7 grams.
The brooch is decorated with a series of intricate cast designs. The body and bow of the brooch are most decorated. The wings of the brooch are relatively plain but it is possible that the edges of the end caps are decorated with cast annulets. However, these areas have suffered from abrasion and corrosion so the detailing is unclear. At the junction between the wings and body sub-circular ridges are present, the upper edge of this ridge, on both faces, is decorated with an incised pattern of cast annulets linked together to form a chain. The head and bow of the brooch are also decorated. The rearward facing hook has already been describe (above); from this a slight raised ridge extends from the hook to the foot, however it is lost on the lower part of the bow due to abrasion. Either side of this central ridge two bands of evenly spaced annulets extend. These annulets have raised central pellets and are bordered by a ring of applied surface decoration. What remains of this is a white paste like substance and possible red enamelling in places. These annulet rings extend to the foot but are distorted near the base by abrasion. The underside of the bow, around the central ridge formed by the catchplate, the metal is a black colour and this may be the remains of an applied surface. The foot of the brooch is also heavily decorated with the foot knop being cylindrical. Around the outside of the foot a repeating pattern of interlocking triangles is present. These are a little irregular in nature and it is possible that this area may have been enamelled as the surface of the decoration is rough - almost keyed. If it were enamelled then the design would be zig-zag shaped. The lower side of the knop is concave with a central projecting knop or stud. The brooch is a mid green colour with an even polished patina which is abraded in places. Where abrasion has occurred patches of light green corrosion product are present. Movement in the plough soil has also removed some decoration on the brooch.
Similar brooches can be seen in Richard Hattatt's Visual Guide to Ancient Brooches pp 300 fig; 159 and Bayley and Butcher: Roman Brooches in Britain pp 89-92. A direct parallel for the decoration has not been found but there is a large variation in decoration of this form of brooch. This style of brooch is usually dated to the early Roman period, 1st-early 2nd century, and is one of the most common or typical Roman brooches found in the West, specifically the West Midlands and Wales. This example is larger than many recorded but is a good example of a commonly found Roman Artefact.
Disposition: Returned to finder
Bayley, J & Butcher, S 2004: Roman Brooches in Britain: A Technological and Typological Study Based on the Richborough Collection. Society of Antiquaries of London: London
Hattatt, R 2000: A Visual Catalogue of Richard Hattatt's Ancient Brooches Oxbow: Oxford
MALVERN HILLS AREA, Early Bronze Age Flat Axe
Precise provenance known but withheld. The axehead was discovered by Master Thomas Wada (aged 9) whilst walking in the Malvern Hills area in disturbed soil from an animal burrow and reported to Peter Reavill, FLO Shropshire and Herefordshire.
More photographs of the axe are available on the PAS website
Cast-copper alloy (bronze) flat axe of early-Bronze-Age date (c2500-2050 BC). The flat axe is broadly sub-rectangular in plan with a splayed crescent shaped blade. In profile it is broadly lentoid, with slight tapering edges. In cross section the axe is D-shaped with one edge displaying a distinctive curved (domed edge) whilst the opposite is relatively flat. It is likely that this is caused by the axe being cast in an open stone mould. The overall length is 115.5mm and the axe weighs approximately 450 grams (this is very heavy for its size). The butt is relatively thin having a wide flat edge; the width at the butt is 39.5mm (thickness: 3.5mm). The sides of the axe gently expand in width from the butt to the blade; in shape they are relatively straight. There is no evidence of the long edges being raised to form flanges and there is also no evidence of a median bevel (proto stop ridge). The axe however, is thickest at the mid point (13.5mm). The sides of the blade expand to produce a crescentic blade edge with a width of 68.5mm. The tips of the crescent shaped blade have been damaged through either abrasion or wear, as has the blade edge itself. A distinct blade facet is not present. There is no evidence of any form of incised or cast decoration present on any surface of the axe. The axe is a mid green brown colour with a much abraded or corroded patina. Where damage has occurred there is either a light green active corrosion or a mid brown purple coloured corrosion present. The overall condition of the axe suggests that there has been limited movement in the soil.
The axehead is best described as coming from the first phases of the early Bronze Age
(or possibly even the Copper Age). The form of the axe is comparable to Type
Growtown/ Milton Moss (outlined by Schmidt and Burgess: 1981, pp 23-24). This form is
described as having a thin butt, relatively straight sides with slightly expanded
cutting edge. These have a broad distribution in Wales and the Marches but are also
common in England. However, this axe also has characteristics seen on other forms of
early axes specifically Type Lough Ravel / Minto and some of the early Migdale axes
(although these tend to have narrower butts and often flare more at the cutting edge).
These axes all fit within the earliest phases of metal working in Britain,
metalworking stage I-II, which corresponds to Needham's (1996) Period 1-2 circa
2500-2050 CAL BC. This means that they are dated, broadly, to the same period as
Beaker pottery, barbed and tanged flint arrowheads, copper halberds and gold lunulae.
The findspot and the lack of abrasion both suggest that the axe was deliberately
deposited on the false crest of the hill with spectacular panoramic views to the
south and east. After recording the artefact was returned to the finder.
Needham S 1996: Chronology and Periodisation in the British Bronze Age Kopenhagen
Schmidt, P K and Burgess, C B 1981: The Axes of Scotland and Northern England Prähistorische Bronzefund IX, 7 Munich
BADGER AREA, Late Bronze Age Socketed 'baggy' Axehead
Precise provenance known but withheld. The axehead was discovered by Mr Graham Walker whilst farming in the 1960s and only recently reported to Peter Reavill, FLO Herefordshire and Shropshire.
More photographs of the bronze axehead are available on the PAS website
A cast bronze (copper alloy) faceted socketed axe of late Bronze Age date (950-750 BC). The axe is sub-rectangular in plan with a flared convex cutting edge and the socket is oval in cross section. The axe measures 80.7mm length, 52.3mm width, is 37.4mm thick and weighs 222.61 grams. The depth of the socket is 59.6mm. The mouth of the socket of the axe is broadly oval; the edge of the socket shows little evidence of casting jets due to abrasion. It is also likely that the casting jets have been trimmed flush with the socket mouth. None of the casting runners survives. A relatively wide moulded collar is present on the upper part of the socket of the axe. The upper part of this collar flares at the mouth where a moulded lip is present. The base of the collar is slightly stepped. The moulded collar is best seen on one face, the other is slightly weaker. At the base of the collar, on one edge a side loop extends. The loop is well preserved and relatively small and wide with a regular faceted D-shaped cross section. The loop is set in a low position on the axe. The mid part of the axe, below the collar and above the cutting edge is faceted. Here six clear facets are present; all are relatively even and the edges are clearly defined. The upper parts of the facets extend into the moulded collar. There are no other areas of decoration, such as cast ribs. The two long sides of the axe expand slightly along the length of the socket and terminate with a crescent shaped expanded blade. The casting flashes on the sides of the axe have been hammered and also filed; also clear striations on the blade's edge bevel suggest some preparation for use. The expanded blade has a curved convex (crescent shaped) cutting edge which is relatively well preserved. The blade edge has been lost through abrasion and corrosion. The upper part of the blade has a series of hammer marks where metal has been drawn down; the hammer scars are dish shaped and arranged in a crescentic pattern. It is likely that these do not represent decoration; instead they are functional in nature. The socketed axe head is a mid matt green colour with an even, well formed patina which covers most surfaces. There are several areas where this patina has been lost as a result of abrasion and also corrosion. The surface of the axe is pitted in places but active corrosion is not present. The areas worst affected are those around the collar, socket and cutting edge. There are also a series of deep scratches in the patina; these are a modern occurrence. Further damage is present on the front face of the axe near the moulded collar. Here a sub-rectangular depression extends, this is heavily patinated and suggests old damage. This damage obviously did not affect the strength of the socket. There is no evidence of organic residue within the socket of the axe.
This axe is an unusual find in Shropshire whose known distribution focuses on
ribbed axes; however a similar axe was recently reported to the PAS from Myddle
and Broughton (HESH-05A063). This type of faceted axe is therefore rare and its
presence important. This axe is of a type which is known as Type Gillespie, which
Burgess and Schmidt (1981) suggest is associated with later Wilburton metalworking
traditions (phase XI) and Ewart Park tradition (phase XII). They are predominately
discovered in Ireland and are associated with the Dowris tradition. It has been
suggested that this form of facet axe continues production into the Llyn Fawr
tradition (which is the transitional period between the metalwork of the Bronze and
Iron Ages). Similar axes have been illustrated in Burgess and Schmidt and the best
parallels are cat no 1101 Kilkerran, Scotland, 1109 Graham's Mount, and 1112 Hatton,
Angus. A more local example can be see in the Savory (1980) Welsh catalogue from a
small hoard of axes discovered at Llandaff, Glamorganshire (cat no 282). This Welsh
axe had been analysed and the metal content was comparable with axes from the
second phase of the Late Bronze Age (LBA II) which Savory dates 750-600 BC but
would actually be better described as Ewart Park 950-750 BC. This corresponds to
Needham's (1996) Period 6-7 circa 1000-700 CAL. BC. After recording the artefact
was returned to the finder.
Needham S 1996: Chronology and Periodisation in the British Bronze Age Kopenhagen
Savory, H N 1980: Guide Catalogue to the Bronze Age Collections National Museum and Art Gallery, Wales: Cardiff
Schmidt, P K and Burgess, C B 1981: The Axes of Scotland and Northern England Prähistorische Bronzefund IX, 7 Munich
SHREWSBURY AREA, Mount from a Vehicle dated to the later Roman
Precise provenance known but withheld. The mount was discovered whilst metal detecting and reported to Peter Reavill, FLO Herefordshire and Shropshire.
More photographs of the mount are available on the PAS website
A cast lead alloy figurine of later Roman date 260-350 AD. The figurine is likely to be the terminal fitting of either a staff or more likely a mount from a vehicle. It is incomplete and irregular in plan and profile; being broadly shaped as a male torso (bust) and head depicted in three dimensions. The two arms project, one from either side; both are broken and incomplete. The depiction of the figure is non-anatomical; in that the head is outsized in comparison to the body, being both elongated and enlarged. The figurine is also decorated with both cast and incised decoration. The figurine measures 61.3mm high, 62.6mm maximum width, is 26.3mm maximum thickness and weighs 239.51 grams. The base of the bust is relatively flat with a sub-rectangular opening forming a small skirt or sleeve; this is presumably the method of fixing the figure as a mount. The variation in internal widths is due to the centre of the socket being crushed and narrowed. This crushing may well be deliberate in that a large irregular sub-rectangular depression is present on the reverse face. This depression seems as if it has been formed deliberately with a tool, possibly a chisel or pliers. If this were the case it is likely to be a relic of the process used to secure the figurine mount. There is not a similar scar on the front face of the mount, which is decorated. This scar is similarly patinated to the rest of the artefact, suggesting that this is damage pre-deposition and thus of antiquity.
The head is cast solid in one piece, it is out of proportion with the rest of the body and the features (such as eyes) are also slightly enlarged. As already mentioned it is cast and decorated in three dimensions, therefore designed to be seen on all sides. The head is depicted with tight wavy hair and close cropped beard which extends from the hair line and fills the cheeks and chin. It does not seem to extend onto the neck. In addition to the beard the head is shown wearing a long drooping moustache which delineates the mouth and extends onto the beard. Detailing on the hair is achieved by incised curvi-linear lines which extend from the forehead backwards in a swept back fashion. The hair on both sides of the head is similarly swept back over the ears. The beard is augmented by incised vertical lines and the moustache with curvi-linear lines following the overall shape. The two ears are relatively large and positioned high on each side of the head, they are cast and finely modelled with a C-shaped rib. The facial details consist of a high forehead with prominent brows. The nose is cast but does not project, instead detailing is shown by recessing the adjacent areas, which is probably cast but also augmented by incised carving. The nose itself has a prominent bridge but button / snub base. To either side of the nose, beneath the brows the eyes are positioned. These are large and oval / lentoid in shape. They project above the level of the face and the eyelids are clearly defined causing the figure to have wide eye expression. At the centre of the eye a small raised circle is present representing pupils. The mouth is formed in the area defined by the beard and moustache; it is shown simply as an incised line, with the lower lip being a lentoid pellet. The neck is clearly shown and is un-augmented. The neck extends onto the body or bust of the figurine. The shoulders are broad and slightly sloped; they extend onto the relatively small arms. The left arm is best preserved being broken at the wrist. The arm is held or raised with the elbow being bent and the forearm cocked. The arm in shape is stylised being broadly sub-rectangular with faceted edges. It has been abraded in the ploughsoil and some of the detail has been lost. All that remains are the possible armour (discussed below) and a series of incised chevrons on the lower arm. The break on the arm is abraded and patina removed, it is likely to be an old break but this cannot be confirmed. The right arm is similarly shaped but broken at a point above the elbow. This arm is held lower than the left and is similarly styled with faceted edges. The broken edge is similar abraded with relatively fresh metal exposed. Below the arms the bust expands slightly to a crisp edge at the base. The shape of the bust, excluding the arms, is broadly sub-rectangular. The front face of the bust is decorated with a cast design, which may have been augmented although abrasion has removed much detail. The design is broadly that of a cuirass, Roman breast plate, which extends over the shoulder and possibly onto the upper arms, across the breast. The detail is broadly lost. The detail is also not replicated on the rear face, unlike that shown on the back of the head; it is possible that this area may originally have been concealed when on display.
Overall the figurine / mount has a mid-grey, brown-coloured, well-polished patina, which has been abraded in places. There is no evidence of active corrosion present. Areas on all surfaces of the figurine have a mid brown red colour. It is possible that this is due to the burial environment or corrosion of the metal. However, this distortion in colouration does not match the areas of most abrasion. It is possible that it is an applied colour, but again this does not respect specific areas for example it appears on both the hair, beard, face and bust and is not defined to just one area or style of decoration.
A direct parallel for the fitting has not been found. However a number of similar styles of decoration and also skirted fitting have been suggested. Martin Henig has suggested that the dating of this example should be viewed as being from the Tetrachy (293-313 AD) where the style of very short hair and beard is more common. He further suggests two broad parallels in form. The first being the Porphyry bust of Galerius in Cairp (Weitzmann et al, Age of Spirituality (1979) p.12 no.5). The second is a similar bronze statuette depicting a cuirassed emperor with similar eyes, allegedly from England (Mitten and Doeringer, Master Bronzes from the Classical World (1967-1968), p.285 no.279). This second example is dated to the late 2nd or 3rd century. The catalogue entry suggests that this figure shows provincial workmanship which is revealed by almond-shaped eyes outlined by deep incision, schematized gouges indicating hair. It also suggests that the face resembles that of a bust, possibly Commodus and that it is the generalised image of an emperor probably produced by a Gallic or British craftsman. Sally Worrell has also provided a parallel for a statuette mount with a similar rectangular socket which is from a vehicle fitting from Cologne in Heinz Menzel's 'Die Romischen Bronzen Aus Deutschland III Bonn' (1986). She has also found a similar styled bust in Toynbee's 'Art in Roman Britain' (1963 125 no. 5 pl. 5 also nos. 2-4) which is suggested to be one of the usurper emperors who detached Gaul and Britain from the Roman Empire, 275-80 AD.
With these parallels it is therefore suggested that this figurine is most likely to be from a mount from a Roman vehicle. It is most likely to depict an Emperor, possibly one of the Tetrachy, although the style could suggest a late 3rd or early 4th Century date (260-350). Finally, that it was highly likely that it was produced by a Gallic or British craftsman.
Sincere thanks are extended to Martin Henig (University of Oxford), Ralph Jackson
(British Museum) and Sally Worrell (Portable Antiquities Scheme / UCL) for their
very useful comments, expertise and dated parallels. After recording the artefact
was returned to the finder.
References: Weitzmann et al / Mitten and Doeringer / Heinz Menzel's / Toynbee's
Weitzmann et al, Age of Spirituality (1979) p.12 no.5
ATCHAM AREA: Bovine Figurine dated to the Roman period
Precise provenance known but withheld. The figurine was discovered by Stephen Condé whilst walking and reported to Peter Reavill, FLO Herefordshire and Shropshire.
More photographs of the figurine are available on the PAS website
Carved soapstone bovine (Ox or Cow) figurine of Roman date (100-350 AD). The figurine is naturalistic in style and incomplete having three broken legs; two of which were discovered close to the find. The carving has been achieved from a combination of whittling and carving, probably using a knife. Although some of the elements are stylised in design the overall impression of the figure is life-like and well proportioned. In shape the body of the ox is sub-rectangular from which extends the horned head and four sub-rectangular D-shaped cross sectioned feet. The head is triangular in shape with two projecting horns (of which one is worn and the other broken) beneath which the ears extend and are oval in shape, the eyes are pointed oval and deeply recessed and the snout / mouth is rounded. Detailing around the neck and snout and eyes is achieved by both diagonal cuts and an element of cross hatching. The neck is thick and chunky with roles of skin depicted, the V shape of the neck forms a central ridge which extends beneath the body of the ox and terminates between the rear legs. The four legs extend from the body, each terminates in a flat foot suggesting that the cow stood upright; the position of the legs also suggests that the pose of the animal was in mid stride - leading with the right foot. The body of the cow is similarly naturalistic in design with the flanks, back and belly being shown through carved profiles and incised knife marks. The tail at the rear drops down one of the legs and terminates in a stylised point. Apart from the bulk, size and horns, the sex of the cow is not depicted, the lack of udders and general bulk of this example would suggest a male ox but the sex is ambiguous. The figurine is a mid yellow, pale white colour with the incised decoration discoloured (possibly deliberately) to a grey black colour. Distinct wear can be seen on one face where the surface of the figurine is polished smooth and is a pale yellow colour. All bar one of the breaks is recent, the old break is worn and polished; the new breaks show a white powdery crystalline structure. The fact that the legs were discovered close to the figurine suggests that they are brittle in nature and the archaeological deposit they were from is relatively undisturbed. The figurine stands 51.3mm tall, 52.7mm in length and 21.0mm thick. It weighs 51.15 grams.
A direct parallel for this figurine has not been found; however, Martin Henig has suggested comparable parallels in the carving known from Wroxeter, specifically the bone leopard knife handle. The soapstone used for this carving / figurine is not known from Britain and so seems to have been imported; it is likely that a native craftsmen would have fashioned this example from an imported soapstone block - rather than being an imported figurine.
Thanks are extended to Martin Henig (University of Oxford) for his thoughts and expertise.
Thanks to the Portable Antiquities Scheme and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery for the use of the images in this article which are © Copyright Portable Antiquities Scheme / Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery.