Socketed Axehead, Auchencairn Hill

This socketed axehead, from the collection of Dr Grierson, was found on Auchencairn Hill, Rerrick in 1859. From the late Bronze Age, this socketed axe has a curved blade, squared and hollow at the butt, with broad loop on one side. Ornamented with four slightly raised vertical ribs visible on one face only, the join for the two casts is clearly visible. It has been mounted on a replica wooden shaft for display purposes.   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.  
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length: 110 mm width (blade): 50 mm depth: 37 mm
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