Weapons, warfare and society in Britain, 1250-750 BC
This research project was designed as a large scale detailed study of British swords and spearheads, of the period from approximately 1250-750BC. 202 small metallurgical samples and 4 large sword cross sections were examined metallographically. Chemical compositions were ascertained. Sections of 'sword edge' were prepared and impacted experimentally to reproduce combat damage and the results used to help assess the 499 swords and 485 spearheads, which were measured and examined visually. The results were analysed statistically according to regional and typological groupings. The distribution of manufacturing characteristics showed significant regional and typological variations and indicate a hierarchy of technical proficiency. Metallographic examinations also revealed a number of weapons which had been burnt. The compositional analyses showed metal being recycled and mixed, although alloys used were similar. Aspects of typological classification were quantified and regional patterns of distribution were assessed. Patterns of damage confirmed that that the majority of the weapons had probably been used in combat before deposition. There were significant regional and chronological differences in the proportions so used. Patterns of non-combat damage, breakage and depositional context showed that despite evident similarities some highly significant regional, chronological and typological differences existed. The weapons indicate that warfare was endemic but probably sporadic and low level. Communities appear to have exercised some form of social sanctioning over warriors, in part by incorporating weapons and the concept of war symbolically within their ceremonials. Deposition practices varied with time and locality but many do appear to have been ritual. There were also distinct regional and chronological traditions in the design, manufacturing and pre-depositional combat use of weapons. The evidence points to an escalation in long distance travel and exchange of goods and ideas, increasing contacts between regions, where people adapted the new to their own society.