Gold standard with Bronze Age weapons

The artefacts recovered from the archaeological dig at Carnoustie have been hailed as “extraordinary” and “find of a lifetime” by experts.

Chief amongst artefacts recovered was a gold-decorated spearhead from the Balmachie hoard, as the presence of gold items indicates a wealthy warrior class.

This hoard of metalwork is a major addition to Scottish Late Bronze Age archaeology. Each individual object is significant, but the presence of gold ornamentation on the spearhead makes this an exceptional group.

GUARD Archaeology’s project officer, Alan Hunter Blair, said: “The earliest Celtic myths often highlight the reflectivity and brilliance of heroic weapons. Gold decoration was probably added to this bronze spearhead to exalt it both through the material’s rarity and its visual impact.

“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 hoard of artefacts, which are around 3000 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.”

Beth Spence, the GUARD project officer who undertook the laboratory excavation of the hoard, added: “Organic evidence like Bronze Age wooden scabbards rarely survive, so this just underlines how extraordinary these finds are.”