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Collectors & Explorers

Dr Thomas Boyle Grierson

Flanged Axehead, Durisdeer

Period:
Bronze Age
Description:

This bronze flanged axehead was formerly owned by Dr Grierson and displayed in his Musuem in Thornhill. Dating from the Middle Bronze Age, this haft flanged axe has a semi-circular blade with a hook on each side. A near identical forgery of this object also exists in the Museum stores, made presumably in the 19th century for collectors.  

 

Early Bronze Age flat axes

 

Early metal tools were simple because the stone moulds used for casting could only be produced in basic shapes. They were often made of copper, but although copper ore was available in the Glentrool area there is no evidence that it was exploited. It seems more likely that tools were imported from Ireland. These axe heads would have been hafted to an L shaped piece of wood. The short section was split to hold the axe head, which was then bound into position.

 

The first metalwork


Metal working was a complex and lengthy process. A small pit was dug, filled with crushed ore and charcoal, and then ignited. The temperature was raised by using bellows, perhaps made of animal skin. Once smelting had occurred the molten metal collected in a crucible and tipped into the mould. After cooling the casting was removed and hammered to smooth any rough edges. Cutting edges on axe heads would have been sharpened by hammering or grinding. When stone moulds were in use shapes tended to be simple, but about 3,500 years ago multiple section clay moulds were developed which enabled more complicated shapes to be made.

 

Early Bronze Age metal workers used pure copper, but this made objects which were flexible in use and difficult to cast. After a period of experimentation, bronze, an alloy of 90 per cent copper and 10 per cent tin was developed. In Dumfries and Galloway most Bronze Age metalwork has been found on lowlands and in river valleys. The River Nith especially has revealed many finds, perhaps because traders and settlers used it to move between the Solway shores and Ayrshire.

 

References:

 

COLES, John - "Bronze Age Metalwork in Dumfries and Galloway", TDGNHAS, 3rd series, Volume 42, p61-98, 1965

 

STEVENSON, R B K - "Note on some Bronze Axes", TDGNHAS, 3rd series, Volume 26, p123-125, 1949

Place of Discovery:
Durisdeer
Materials/Media:
Bronze
Dimensions:
length: 110 mm width (blade): 50 mm depth: 37 mm
Source:
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
1965.677
Digital Number:
RPD0071


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