A Bronze Age Axe from Worthing, West Sussex

A Bronze Age axe from Worthing, West Sussex

During August, we are publishing through this blog a series of new photographs taken by archaeological photographer Ian Cartwright for an online Image Gallery created with the support of the Arts and Humanities Research Council. You can read more about the gallery here, and you can see the whole gallery online here.

Here is the caption for this image:

This is a Bronze Age copper alloy palstave axe with a side loop and high stop ridges. The
 cut made into the blade is the result of metallurgical sampling done in the 1950. The red dot and white writing is also modern, dating from the late 19th or early 20th-century. The meaning of the dot and the text “No. 2” is obscure, although probably relate to its display at some point in the past. But the reference to ‘Forty Acres Field near Worthing’ is more helpful. 

The modern text connects this axe to a historic discovery of Bronze Age hoard of axes, placed in a ceramic urn or vessel, at this site near Worthing in West Sussex. The writing has been copied from earlier text, and the date of 1871 is a mistaken transposition for the correct date of the discovery of the hoard, recorded in the museum’s accession book, of 1877. Pitt-Rivers acquired the axe at some point between 1877 and 1882.

In 1881, John Evans noted in his survey of "The Ancient Bronze Implements, Weapons and Ornaments of Great Britain and Ireland" that ‘nearly thirty palstaves, mostly, I believe, of this type, were found with about twelve socketed celts…and lumps of rough metal, near Worthing, in 1877. The whole had been packed in an urn, of coarse earthenware’. In 1882, the journal Sussex Archaeological Collections reported the name of the person who discovered the hoard was E.C. Patching. 

The axe also connects the axe to another object from Pitt-Rivers’ own collection – a fragment of the urn, on which the text “Fragment of pot in which 40 bronze celts were found near Worthing in 1877”. Further research into this find-spot could yield further details about the hoard and the fate of the other axes found in it. The text present on the axe is a reminder of the dangers of introduced errors with each layer of copying and re-writing in museum documentation. 

(Pitt Rivers Museum Accession Number 1884.119.111)

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