A gold-decorated bronze spearhead has been heralded as a discovery of international significance by the archaeological team that unearthed it at Carnoustie.
The weapon was part of a hoard uncovered at Balmachie last year during an archaeological evaluation before our development of two grass football pitches.
GUARD Archaeology’s project officer Alan Hunter Blair summed up the excitement of his team as he said: “It is one of only a handful of gold decorated bronze spearheads that have been found across Britain and Ireland, so this find alone is of international significance.”
The dig site has been a hive of activity this winter. Pic by GUARD Archaeology.
It was found alongside a bronze sword, pin and scabbard fittings in a pit close to a Late Bronze Age settlement that was excavated by the archaeological team on our behalf.
This hoard of metalwork is a major addition to Scottish Late Bronze Age archaeology and the presence of gold ornament on the spearhead makes this an exceptional group.
In Britain and Ireland, only a handful of such spearheads are known - among them a weapon hoard found in 1963 at Pyotdykes Farm, west of Dundee. These two weapon hoards from Angus - found only a few kilometres apart - hint at the wealth of the local warrior society during the centuries around 1000-800 BC.
The Carnoustie discovery is achieves international significance through the extremely rare survival of organic remains - a leather and wooden scabbard (probably the best preserved Late Bronze Age sword scabbard ever found in Britain), fur skin around the spearhead, and textile around the pin and scabbard. Such organic remains rarely survive on dryland sites.
What's more, the hoard is not an isolated find, but was buried within a Late Bronze Age settlement. When the excavation is complete, experts will search for further insight into this local Bronze Age community.
The excavation also revealed the largest Neolithic hall so far found in Scotland - a building dating to around 4000 BC.
Angus Council communities convener Donald Morrison said: “It is clear that Carnoustie was as much a hive of activity in Neolithic times as it is now. The discoveries made on land destined for sporting development have given us a fascinating insight into our Angus forebears and I look forward to learning more about our local prehistory.”
Vice convener Jeanette Gaul said: “To make such a find while preparing to create sports facilities for Carnoustie came as a huge surprise to us all. We’ve since learned it is of national and, indeed, international importance. But I am pleased that the archaeologists have involved local young people in the excavation project and are offering us all an insight into Angus’ distant past.”
Alan Hunter Blair said: “The hoard of artefacts, which are around three thousand years old, is the find of a lifetime. It is very unusual to recover such artefacts in a modern archaeological excavation, which can reveal so much about the context of its burial.
“Owing to the fragile nature of these remains when we first discovered them, our team removed the entire pit, and the surrounding subsoil which it was cut into, as a single 80 kg block of soil. This was then delivered to our Finds Lab where it was assessed by a specialist Finds Conservator to plan how it could be carefully excavated and the artefacts conserved.”