STONE ARTEFACTS FROM BRONZE AGE CONTEXTS LITTLEDEAN WATER SHRINE
These stone artefacts were excavated from below the Iron Age Metal Working Layers. This does not mean they are not Iron Age in date. However they have all come from contexts which were not contaminated by iron slag and iron metal working residues. Several crude stone heads were also recovered in association with some of these objects and at the present time it can only be suggested these may date from the late Bronze Age to the middle Iron Age. A few incised stone artefacts, have a similarity to Bronze Age objects from Anatolia and Iberia. All these artefacts await academic appraisal and identification. Some suggestive parallels and identifications are given here. The circular orbs and rayed circles are possibly sun imagery. Ten out of fifteen have possible solar imagery suggesting they do belong to the Bronze Age. A definitive Bronze Age period can now be confirmed at Littledean through the discovery in summer 2020 of a Bronze Age cremation cemetery with associated artefacts/grave goods which parallel the same objects from Bronze Age barrows at Wilsford in the Vale of Pewsey, Wiltshire. This is interesting as both Bronze Age flint tools tools are rare and bronze axes have not been found. However bronze axes have been found at Littledean Camp and Welshbury Hill fort and other locales in Littledean parish.
This incised sandstone artefact with ground surface has some similarity to ‘owl’ idols from Anatolia and Iberia. It was found in association with stone head No.30 in the upper fill of Bronze Age water channel.
N.B. It could also be an Iron Age decorated whetstone and its shape supports that. In which case it should be placed in different categories.
This broken fragment of coloured sandstone has an inscribed image which may represent an owl face with eyes and beak. It came from a similar context to BA.1. The same note applies to this object as BA.1.
N.B.2. In Irish and Welsh myth there is a strong connection between Lugh, Blodeuwedd, Gavigan (father of Lugh) by Balor’s daughter. Blodeuwedd became Lugh’s wife and was unfaithful, eventually being turned into an owl by Gwydion. Blodeuwedd is the central character of the 4th Mabinogi (tale) of Math fab Mathonwy in the 4th Branch of the Mabinogi. It is noteworthy that many of the Littledean heads have anthropomorphic features which resemble owls. These will be discussed at length under my own area of amateur interest.
This smoothed sandstone fragment with orb and rays is probably a depiction of the sun and may be an early representation of images which evolved to become wheel symbols of the sun which were popular in the Celtic Iron Age. It may have been a ‘die’ for gold working in the Bronze Age where very fine gold foil was created by hammering out an ingot and impressing into the die, creating a small gold solar disc (Cahill, M. A Stone to Die For – Irish Bronze Age gold work)
Possibly this object was also a die as in BA.3 above.
Possibly an early representation of a side profile head.
This is a complex piece which unfortunately is badly eroded in the upper right hand segment. The abstract facial imagery is self evident. The reverse side BA.6A seen below although also badly eroded is evidently symbolising an eye or the sun and may have been decorated around and below it.
This object and BA.7A below is obscure, one for the experts.
Possibly a proto head with sun imagery on the reverse BA.8A.
Most likely a whetstone or sharpening hone.
Possibly this object symbolises a bird’s head.
This object can perhaps be identified with reasonable certainty as a mould for casting a sun disc.
This object and BA.13 and 14 are probably whetstones, BA.12 perforated to hang from a belt. They are particularly interesting as BA.13 has its end broken where there may have been a similar treatment to BA.14. Their shape is consistent with whetstones. Their colour striation suggests they were specially selected and as suggested in BA.14 they could have been time keepers as well.
All the faces of this object are worn smooth with concave sides and convex end, characteristics consistent with whetstones.
This interesting artefact was identified by local historian and archaeologist Gordon McDonald from the Blakeney Local History Society as an early sundial with parallels in Egypt. Placed on the ground with a stick in the hole produces a 3 hour period of time as the sun shadow passes from one side to the other. He suggests it may therefore represent a work period. The rays support the connection with the sun.
This is probably a fragment of another sun orb similar to BA.11 and has traces of rays. It is most likely a broken fragment of a complete and large sun orb as a decorative tablet for wall decoration or a large mould for casting as in BA.11 with which it shares a close similarity.