Bronze Age spearhead found in a West Deeping ditch

Local residents are fed-up with reports of fly-tipping in lay-bys and ditches – but here is a different story! 

Bronze Age spearhead from Rectory Farm, West Deeping

This spearhead has recently been found in a ditch – by archaeologists from PCAS working  at Rectory Farm, West Deeping before the quarry operators, Breedon Aggregates, extract gravel from the site.

The ditch is believed to be part of a prehistoric droveway -one of many earthworks in the multi-period field landscape which has been progressively discovered by archaeologists since the early 1990s when quarrying for sand and gravel began. 

It can’t have been very far away from where ‘would-be’ amateur  archaeologists were digging last year, when Breedon Quarry organised an Outreach event for West Deeping Heritage Group. (See the October 2020 post for a report and photographs.) 

Ruby Neales (PCAS Finds and Archives Officer) describes the find: “Complete cast copper alloy spearhead, with leaf-shaped blade and a pronounced rib on both sides. It shows very little wear and tear, aside from a few nicks on the edges of the blade. No decoration is present beyond the loops on the socket. The socket is complete and x-rays suggest that there is organic material remaining within the socket.  This means there may be a part of the wooden shaft present, although this has not been confirmed because of the risk of damage to the spearhead itself. Evidence of the casting can be seen on either side of the socket, where the molten metal leaked between the mould. The spearhead is likely to date from the middle Bronze Age with similar spearheads dated to 1600 – 1150BC.” 

From a quick trawl of online resources, it appears that the Bronze Age in Britain is generally agreed to have taken place from around 2500 to 800 BC. Copper was used more frequently in the earlier stages of the Bronze Age, but by mixing copper with a small amount of tin, the prehistoric Britons discovered how to make bronze – much harder and more effective for tools and weapons such as spearheads, knife blades and axe heads.  It is presumably the design of this spearhead – with loops for the bindings to secure the head to the wooden shaft, rather than holes for wooden or bronze pegs – which date it to the middle rather than the late Bronze Age period .

Bronze Age spears were for practical use as weapons in war and hunting, but archaeologists believe that some were used and even designed as ritual offerings, to be thrown into rivers or lakes – or ditches.  It is thought that the Rectory Farm spear was either lost, left accidentally by a passer-by, or else ritually deposited, perhaps when the ditch was closed.

Ian Meadows at Rectory Farm site in  October 2020

Archaeologist Ian Meadows is impressed: “This piece is a significant find for several reasons. Firstly, it is in amazing condition – unusually good – considering it was found buried in a ditch.  Secondly, it may preserve traces of the original wooden haft in the socket – telling us more about how this type of object would have looked in life. The most important is however that here we have an item made from the material of the moment, bronze, which would have been of some prestige value and yet it was recovered from a ditch.  So was it a casual loss or was it deliberately buried?

Many thanks to Gary Bannister,  Breedon’s West Deeping Quarry Manager, for flagging up this interesting discovery. We eagerly look forward to another opportunity for local amateur archaeologists to visit the Rectory Farm site later this year.  Watch this website for further announcements!


2 thoughts on “Bronze Age spearhead found in a West Deeping ditch

  1. Pingback: Bronze Age Spearhead found near West Deeping - Peterborough Archaeology

  2. Pingback: Would-be archaeologists find site of possible Roman barbecue in a field near West Deeping! | West Deeping Heritage Group

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