By Andrew J Lawson
(with a contribution on metal composition by Paul Craddock, Duncan Hook and Caitlin Buck)
Since 1997, the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) has provided a mechanism for the recording and dissemination of information on new discoveries of Bronze Age metalwork (inter alia) throughout England and Wales. Nonetheless, prior to this development considerable effort was made by the Norfolk Museums Service to record the very large number of individual objects and hoards discovered in their county. Overall assessments of Bronze Age metalwork from this part of East Anglia were made at the end of the 1970s and a decade later (Lawson 1984; Pendleton 1999), and some of the hoards then known had been individually published.
However, this report presents details of three hoards from north-east Norfolk, found under different circumstances between 1976 and 1982. All three hoards belong to the Late Bronze Age Ewart Park tradition of metalworking and probably date to the 11th-9th centuries (calibrated) BC.
The first hoard, from Northrepps, was originally reported in 1976. It comprises five socketed axes, three found during the harvesting of potatoes on Windspurs Farm, and two found subsequently by metal-detectors. The other two hoards reported here are from Beeston Regis. The Beeston Regis I hoard was detected in 1979 by a pupil at Beeston Hall School and includes 35 items: 17 socketed axes and two small fragments, a spearhead, a mould, a casting jet and two ingot fragments, portions of a socketed gouge, a socketed punch and a knife, a rivet, and six small fragments. The find spot was archaeologically investigated and the hoard was shown to have been contained in part of a ceramic bowl set within a small pit. The Beeston Regis II hoard was unearthed in 1982 during the digging of a foundation trench at Runton Hill School. The objects, comprising eight complete or fragmentary socketed axes, a palstave and two ingot fragments, were probably originally bound together with string. Archaeological investigation of the site suggests that the bundle of bronzes had probably been buried in a small ditch.
Analysis of the metal composition of the objects from the two Beeston Regis hoards was undertaken by the British Museum. The results show that the compositions are similar to other Ewart Park tradition cast bronzes, and possibly used an unknown continental source of copper and a Mendip source for lead.
Prior to these discoveries, about forty Late Bronze Age hoards had been reported in Norfolk. Although the hoards described here were only three of nine new finds made between 1976 and 1982, the popularity of metal-detecting has led to the discovery of many more subsequently, such that by the end of 2012 the total number of hoards reported from the county stood at approximately one hundred.
To view the rest of the article, which includes a detailed description of the individual hoards, and an analysis of hoarding traditions and social identity in North Norfolk, please click on the associated file link.