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The Bronze Age

Axes & Maces

Flanged Axehead, Raeburn Bog

Bronze Age

This flanged axehead was discovered in Raeburn Bog in 1873. From the collection of Dr Grierson, this object is believed to be from the Middle Bronze Age. It has a Long, chisel type shape with curved blade and narrow uneven flanges.  


Middle Bronze Age palstave axes


The quality of metalwork improved greatly during this period. Stone moulds continued to be used, but clay moulds became more common. Smiths began to use an alloy of copper and tin which enabled them to make objects with more complex shapes, and of greater length. Palstave axes developed from the flanged axes of the early Bronze Age, and had a pocket on either side of the axe into which the split ends of the haft could be fitted.


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.

Place of Discovery:
Raeburn Bog, Eskdalemuir
length: 105 mm width (blade): 30 mm depth: 13 mm
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
Digital Number:
RCAHMS site record:
Raeburn Bog

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


Anderson and Black, J and G F (1888) 'Reports on local museums in Scotland, obtained through Dr R H Gunning's Jubilee gift to the Society',Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.22
Page(s): 376

Coles, J M (1965) 'Bronze Age metalwork in Dumfries and Galloway',Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 3rd, vol.42
Page(s): 92

Coles, J M (1966a) 'Scottish Middle Bronze Age metalwork', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.97
Page(s): 135

RCAHMS (1997a) Eastern Dumfriesshire: an archaeological landscape, Edinburgh
Page(s): 288, no. 104  Held at RCAHMS A.1.7.DUM

Schmidt and Burgess, P K and C B (1981) 'The axes of Scotland and Northern England', Prahistorische Bronzefunde, vol.9, 7 Munchen, Germany
Page(s): 109, no. 712

Truckell, A E (1966a) 'The Grierson collection, Thornhill, and its dispersal', Trans Dumfriesshire Galloway Natur Hist Antiq Soc, 3rd, vol.43
Page(s): 67


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