3,000-Year-Old Pressed Flower Found Inside Axe Handle at Bronze Age Burial Site
One of the “absolutely jaw-dropping” late bronze age finds unearthed in Lancashire is a 3,000-year-old complete pressed flower.
The thistle flower appears to have been purposefully inserted into the hollow end of an axe handle and buried alongside other weapons, jewellery, and ornaments, many of which were in near-perfect condition.
As part of a ritual offering, other axe handles in the hoard had been filled with hazelnuts.
The pressed flower, according to Dr. Ben Roberts, a professor at Durham University and former curator of European bronze age collections at the British Museum, is unusual for a votive offering of its time.
Other discoveries include spearheads with blades still sharp, axes, bracelets, arm rings, a chisel and a pair of ornaments thought to have been part of a horse harness.
The hoard is not linked to a burial site. Instead, it is part of a ritual offering in which artefacts were placed in wet and waterlogged sites by people within a farming community.
Flowers have been found in earlier graves, but, by the time this collection was buried, people were being cremated and their ashes scattered – a process that would have destroyed such offerings.
Such hoards generally contain one or two different types of objects, but this one has several. Roberts said: “We always think that votive offerings are all about metal.
What this highlights is that there would have been other things placed with the metal. It could have been food, clothing … all sorts of things made of wood that wouldn’t have survived.”
Though the flower is a unique find, comparable discoveries have been made in Ireland and Scotland, Roberts said. “So what we’re talking about is certainly a hoard that reflects the interconnections both across the Irish Sea and well into Scotland.”
Earlier this year, the Guardian revealed that a significant early bronze age burial site had been discovered near Morecambe Bay. Archaeologists were alerted to its existence after a well-preserved chisel was found by a metal detectorist.
Brendon Wilkins, an archaeologist and the project director, said that, while excavating that site in July, his team had been alerted to the discovery of the new hoard by another metal detectorist about seven miles (11km) away.
“What really struck us was the serendipity,” he said. “Right at the same time, an absolutely jaw-dropping hoard came to light and allowed a team that was already in the field [to go there].
“These sites are starting to come together, filling a big black hole in our knowledge.” Wilkins described the thistle flower as a “tremendous” find and the variety of other objects as significant.
“The items found in the hoard must now be assessed and analysed in a lab, before a coroner decides whether they can be officially designated as treasure. Then they’re offered up to local or national museums,” he added.
The Morecambe Bay excavation was partly financed through a crowdfunding initiative, DigVentures, a social enterprise founded by three archaeologists – including Wilkins – to address severe cuts to research archaeology funding.
A team of archaeologists from DigVentures, Durham University and the Portable Antiquities Scheme described the votive hoard as “spectacular and significant”.
Other finds include a rare, intact early bronze age funerary urn. This object will undergo further research from Monday, with the team live streaming their layer-by-layer investigation on their Facebook page.