• Metal detecting holidays in England with the World's most successful metal detecting club.

    Twinned with Midwest Historical Research Society USA

    Mass Bruce's axe head hoard - report

    Finally purchased by Colchester Museum in 2006 for display

    This find is truly a find of a lifetime for me due to it's rarity. For any that don't know, to find an axe head while detecting in the UK is extremely rare, to find 7 whole ones, 2 pieces, 3 ingots and a big pile of slag is unbelievable.
    These date back to 1100 BC!! (my oldest find yet for sure ) ( dated as 850 BC subsequently by museum)
    I was detecting out in the middle of a 300 acre field in eastern England when I received a very smooth sounding hit with the Tejon. I dug down about 22 inches and saw a big chunk of green patina.
    What I pulled out was a bronze age axe head. The 3rd one from the left is the first one that came out.

    After I pulled it out, I called Linda on the walkie talkie to tell her what I had found. She was about a mile away in a different field and said that was great and we chatted a bit. Finally I filled back the hole, got up, rescanned the hole and bang, still another signal. Ok, redig it out, get down to that level
    again and pull out another axe. WOW, 2 axes in one hole. I scanned the hole again and BAM, more signals. I buzzed Linda again and said I think I have found a cache of these axes. Well, she made the mile hike over and I kept digging. There was so much green in the bottom of that hole, I didn't know if it would ever stop. By the time Linda and now Brian had gotten there, I had dug out 6 axe heads, the 3 ingots, and a big ole pile of slag.

    We sat there for quite a while in awe just looking at these things. Someone mentioned a story about how these peddlers would go into these villages to sell their wares and most of the time would bury what they had so they didn't get killed by peasants to steal their goods. They would go into
    the village and take orders, then come back and dig up what they needed. These were laid out with the axes in the front (from the way I was digging) the slag was all in the bottom and then these
    big ingots were laid on top, I guess so the dirt wouldn't fall down in between the slag and make it easier to redig up. After 3100 years of being in the ground, there was still no dirt in with the slag, it was all airpockets. Now we started gridding the heck out of the immediate area just hoping to find another one. Just before the museum showed up Linda dug up another piece of one that was only about 6" deep.
    It hasn't been decided if hers is part of the hoard or a seperate find. It may actually be part of a battle axe which wouldn't be part of the hoard. The strange thing is that it was only 30 feet from mine. Have to wait for the museum to decide it's fate. Here is a pic of hers.

    Well, now the museum shows up along with some nasty weather. Anyone that has detected in England knows why they call this weather "bootsticking weather", the ground has alot of clay and this stuff just sticks to everything it touches. So out come 2 women from the museum, one of them in a dress, hoofing across this mud pit By the time they get out to where we are, it is snowing, hailing and raining, along with 50 mph winds. Oops They get out to where we are and take all there measurements and coordinates etc... As we are bagging up the slag, another really small axe head is found mixed in, which brings the total to
    7 complete, 2 pieces, and Linda's seperate piece. We loaded up the 100 pounds of brass into bags and we all take it back to the cars. The English treasure laws are written that anything that is
    classified "treasure" or a "hoard" may be bought by the museum and the finder cannot get them back. Well, this hoard is considered treasure AND a hoard so I was told that there is no way I will get them back The good thing is that they will purchase them at fair market value after they have an inquest to decide their value. (takes about a year) Anyways, here are some more assorted pics that I took...

    These are the 3 ingots, 2 small ones and a big one. The big one must have weighed 20 pounds.

    The one on the left was the smallest one (till the even smaller one was found afterwards), the one on the right was the biggest and was made with a socket on each side to insert the wood into so that it wouldn't twist.

    This one shows the depth of the hole. When I hit bottom, it was 33 inches deep!

    The edges on these were very sharp, again, considering that they were in the ground for 3100 years, they are in pristine condition.

    Ok, thats it on the actual story, the rest is some research
    I did and what I came up with.

    Here is some info on how they melted and made these.

    1. The earliest furnaces were mere camp fires: circles of stones which limited the fire place.
    Thus one could bake meat on the hot stones.
    And the preheated stones could also bring cold water to its boiling point.

    2. When people discovered the benefits of copper and later bronze, attempts were made to smelt these metals.
    Here a crucible contains the metal (a) and is surrounded by charcoal (b).

    3. One step further, attempts were made to reach higher temperatures. Lining the furnace with stones (a) could then better maintain the heat.

    4. A higher edge could also help in reaching a higher temperature.

    5. This is a possible situation in which one could smelt the copper ores to win the copper.

    a. Bellows
    b. Bellows-pipe (clay)
    c. Ideal place for the ore or a crucible with copper or bronze
    d. Charcoal, possibly mixed with copper ores
    e. Loam lining
    f. Sand / loam mixture
    g. Stones

    The next 3 pics are of what the casting process would have looked like. The first one has 2 foot bellows that I guess would keep the fire hot enough.

    This one is an artists impression of a bronze age caster. Notice the tools laid out in front

    This picture shows some molds of the axes, I really like this pic as it shows what the molds looked like and puts some perspective on everything.

    Last but not least, is how the wood was attached to these. This part of the article I got from the depot online magazine from an article that Charles in England wrote.

    The development of metal working was very gradual and involved experiments with alloys. It was found that the addition of 10% of tin to copper produced a bronze alloy capable of being cast in moulds to make tools with a more enduring cutting edge. Production was speeded up and tools and weapons of bronze became more common. The problem of securing a flat axe-head to its haft led to the development first of flanges, then of loops and sockets in the axe-head to give greater strength and firmness. The gradual improvement of the quality of the bronze alloy by the addition of lead in the later Bronze Age made it possible to produce buckets and cauldrons, giving better cooking facilities, as well as swords, shields and horse harness to advance the techniques of warfare. Much of our knowledge of metal working has come from the discovery of hoards of bronze weapons and ornaments, some of which are thought to be the stock-in-trade of itinerant metal workers.

    Hafting. Many of the implements had wooden handles or hafts. These could be tied by thongs or cords to loop implements. Rivets and pegs were also used to secure handles. The type I used to secure the socketed axe replica was taken from a lilac tree and was shaped similar to a horses head handle of a walking stick, the handle proper being about 12" in length. The head was inserted into the socket. A leather belt was cut into 10" long thongs, 10mm wide to fasten through the loops to the handle itself.

    Hope that this wasn't too long and boring for you.
    I know it's a day I'll never forget.
    Thanks for sharing it with me!