Palstaves and prehistory…

Our club members have been responsible for some fantastic finds through the years – but it’s always special when a hoard is uncovered.

People typically equate hoards with visions of pots of precious coin or gold – but it’s not always so. Archaelogical treasure doesn’t belong in such a narrow definition.

The 'Iddinshall palstave' found by club member Brian Kingsnorth

The ‘Iddinshall palstave’ found by club member Brian Kingsnorth


For example, I recall the finding of a spate of Bronze Age ‘palstaves’ in the region during the 90s.

Palstaves are a ‘transitional’ type of axe, showing a degree of evolution from the Early Bronze Age flat axe and the more advanced socketed axe of the Late Bronze Age.

Stanley Morris of Buckley discovered a hoard of prehistoric metalwork, including palstaves, when searching an area of rough ground near Gwernymynydd, Mold.

As the ‘Clwyd Archaeology news’ then reported:

‘The hoard consists of four tanged axes known as palstaves; two later socketed axes; and a bronze bi-valve [two piece] mould. All the objects date back to the Bronze Age, roughly from 2000 to 700BC. Hoards of this type are a relatively rare type of Bronze Age site, this find represents only the sixth from Clwyd.’

Rare indeed. I myself was stunned when, around September 1990, I found my very own palstave. As Adrian Tindall from Cheshire County Council commented on the ‘Iddinshall palstave':

‘It was found at a depth of 75mm in a freshly ploughed field at Iddinshall, near Terporley. It is 132mm long and 50mm wide across its edge, which is badly corroded. It is simple and undecorated. In form it resembles the North British ‘wing- flanged’ axes, though the stop ridge may have stronger parallels in Wales or the Marches.’

Drawing of the 'Iddinshall palstave' by P. Alebon

Drawing of the ‘Iddinshall palstave’ by P. Alebon

Nothing is quite as enigmatic as a buried, long hidden artifact.

The reasons the original owner had for burying quantities of weapons or tools, are of course lost to pre-history.

Which is why our hobby is so important. We are of course helping ensure such artifacts and their context are catalogued and preserved for history.

But in a sense it is also the conclusion of a human story, and we offer closure – in the best possible sense – to the actions and motivations of those who came before us. Our hobby is, indeed, a privilege.

Editor’s note. This is the very first post for our new look website. How fitting then that this inaugural post should come from Brian – who has single-handedly been responsible for the club website in previous years, as well as being a valuable source of contact for new members, dispensing help and information relating to the club and metal detecting alike. The club would like to take this opportunity to thank Brian for the hard work he has put in.

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