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50 Finds from Cumbria
50 Finds from Cumbria
Archaeology is understanding people in the past from what they have left behind. Objects inform us about how people lived, what they made and what they were used for. There has often been a view that there are no archaeological finds in the North West. However through the work of the Portable Antiquities Scheme and the display of existing museum collections this traditional view is being challenged.
By looking at objects discovered in Cumbria, recorded by the Portable Antiquities Scheme, we can demonstrate the continuity of activity within this county. Cumbria has revealed the longevity of it's past through a range of both functional and decorative objects. Objects were made and traded from the Copper Age, through the Bronze Age and into the Iron Age and Roman periods; further objects show Early Medieval activity and Post-medieval artefacts reveal long journeys of religious pilgrimage and persecution. 50 Finds from Cumbria allows us to look at the continuity of our past using archaeological finds to illustrate what has previously been hidden away.
Paperback; 235 x 165mm
Colour photographs throughout
Book review by Steve matthews from Bookends.
50 Finds from Cumbria by Dot Boughton. Amberley. 14.95
It was found by a farmer in his fields at Sunderland, near Cockermouth. It was a useful flattish piece of stone, 340 mm long and 95 mm wide with one end roughly square and the other round. It was ideal to use as a doorstep on the farm. But that roughly square end had been painstakingly fashioned perhaps five thousand years ago. It had been the work of many days and it would have taken many more days of relentless chipping before the square end was smoothed and sharpened and the whole was fastened to a wooden haft in order to make an axe for a man of the New Stone Age.
A far smaller piece of honey-coloured flint was found in Derwentwater. It was barely thirty millimetres long, but it had been carefully "manufactured using a number of different techniques including direct and indirect percussion, as well as pressure/ripple flaking". As with the axe head, this arrow head was unfinished when it was lost, but it was lost some thousand years later at some time during the early Bronze Age.
Not everything was practical. A small piece of flattened gold, a little larger than the arrow-head but of much the same age, was found near Brampton. It was a lunula terminal, the piece of shaped metal that formed one part of the fastening for a beautiful colour of beaten gold shaped like a crescent moon. The thickness of the gold and the lines on one side show that this was a provincial piece of the type found very occasionally in Scotland, Cornwall and Brittany. Lunulae found in Ireland were more finely made of gold as thin as a tenth of a millimetre.
A brooch was found near Urswick. It was made from a copper alloy which had been cast in a mould. The brooch - it is under a millimetre thick - is in the shape of a cartwheel and has decorative attachments top and bottom patterned with little knobs of metal. It was probaby made several centuries before the Romans came to Britain.
The Romans left their coins behind. Three gold coins have been found in Cumbria. Two, one from Cockermouth and the other from Dearham, bear the head of the Emperor Nero. With his extravagant mop of hair, garlanded with laurel leaves, and bloated face, he looks remarkably like Donald Trump. The other side of the coin is stamped with an image of Jove on his throne holding his sceptre and thunderbolts in readiness. A third gold coin from the Brampton area shows Roma seated on a shield with birds, a she-wolf and twins. This aureus was minted in AD 77-78. Vespasian had it struck in honour of his son Titus.
The most remarkable find of all was the Crosby Garrett helmet. It is described as "an extremely fine, near-complete, copper-alloy two-piece Roman cavalry sports helmet dating from the late first to mid-third century AD". But no technical description can do justice to the beauty of this mask of a lovely face framed with luxuriant curls beneath a pointed helmet. On top of the helmet is an intricately made defiant griffin. When the helmet was found it was in 33 pieces with a further 35 fragments lying around. Now that it has been so carefully reconstructed with a craftsmanship equal to that of the hand that originally fashioned it, it is 90 per cent complete. "Both irises are depicted with a pierced ring in the centre of the eye-holes to represent the eyes." However, the mask itself seems as though it might still be the pride and joy of the wealthy young soldier who would have worn it on the training ground.
The fifty artefacts depicted in this book are just a few of the 3570 objects which have been found in Cumbria which are part of the British Museum's Portable Antiquities Scheme. They have been ably described by Dot Boughton and each one is fully illustrated. Each object is beautiful in its own way and tells a art of the story of Cumbria going back many millennia.
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