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6 March 2017
Bronze Age weapons found in Scotland

Excavations during the construction of two football fields in Scotland uncovered a rare a Bronze-Age weapon hoard, including a bronze sword and a gold-decorated spearhead. The weapons, likely dating from between 1000 BCE and 800 BCE, were found in a pit alongside a Bronze Age roundhouse, which had been dug into the remnants of a much older Neolithic structure - a rectangular timber hall, the largest ever found in Scotland.
     Excavations first revealed pits and postholes in the soil - signs of ancient construction. The cache was found late in the day, so the archaeologists removed an 80 kilo clod of earth from the ground with the artefacts inside, then spent a week working on it in their laboratory. Inside was the decorated bronze spearhead, bundled with a bronze sword with a lead-and-tin pommel, a bronze scabbard mount, a chape - the metal fitting at the end of a scabbard - and a bronze pin. The sword has notches in its blade, and the socket of the spearhead looks as if it were used with multiple wooden shafts. Typically, weapon hoards of this type are found not under the ground, but in rivers or bogs, where they were placed as sacrifices.
     Very few similar spearheads have been discovered - a couple from Ireland, one in England, and one other gold-decorated spearhead in Scotland in 1963 about nineteen kilometres from this latest find. The team will analyse the metals to learn where the materials originated. The lead may have come from the south of Scotland, the gold from Ireland, and the tin from Cornwall, in the extreme southwest of England - the opposite end of the island.
     The new discovery is more unusual for containing organic materials - remnants of fur-bearing skin around the spearhead, microscopic fragments of textiles around the bronze pin, as well as pieces of the sword's wooden scabbard - all of which can be radiocarbon dated.
     Researchers do not yet know whether the twelve Bronze Age buildings were a village, or single homes occupied and abandoned over a period of time. Most Bronze Age dwellings are single homes, so the discovery of a village would be of great importance.

Edited from The Scotsman (15 February 2017), LiveScience (22 February 2017)

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