3.7.8 Metalwork Copper alloy

Much of the copper alloy assemblage comprises small unidentifiable fragments of copper alloy sheet and wire. There is, however, a significant quantity of complete artefacts which will contribute towards the overall dating sequence. There are just over 850 objects of copper alloy of which 15% are pins. Whilst the pins include many that are without diagnostic features, a number derived from the areas at the southern end of the site are clearly Middle Saxon. Twenty brooches have been recovered, including both Roman and Saxon types, and whilst not providing detailed dates, do demonstrate effectively that in the Early Anglo-Saxon period the active site covered the maximum area. The discovery of fragments of copper alloy objects, including pieces of girdle-hangers in what appear to be foundation pits, beneath at least two of the post-hole structures deserve attention as indicators of ritual. A remarkably well-preserved copper alloy fish-hook may be indicative of sea fishing; however, it could have been used for pike or other large freshwater fish available in the valley below.

An increase in the quantity of copper alloy objects and glass in particular at the southern end of the site adds weight to the suggestion that this is the higher status zone. A single wrist clasp from Site 11 provides a link with the cemetery from which an example from the same mould is derived. There is little evidence of bronze working from the site although a number of truncated furnaces within the enclosures at the southern end of the site may have been used for small-scale metalworking. A single crucible has been identified and other fragments may be isolated during the analysis.

The majority of the copper alloy objects are reasonably well preserved and require little attention. Some of the objects require cleaning to clarify decoration and there may be some need for metallurgical analysis of other metal coatings.

The metalwork in general and the copper alloy objects in particular will provide a critical contribution for tying down the stratigraphic sequence within a more detailed chronological framework. The presence of an extensive collection of pins, including a range of Middle-Saxon types, will help refine the later part of the sequence in particular (see also 4.15.2 Copper Alloy). Iron

There are a little under 2,800 iron objects from the site, including more than 200 knives and additional fragments from as many as twenty more. The remainder includes over 600 nails and another 800 fragments of as yet unidentifiable objects. Tools are represented by a single weaving batten, a woodworking axe and a blade for cutting shingles; this object was of some interest as it had been broken in two, the two halves being found 3m apart in a single Late Saxon deposit. Some of the larger corroded rods and bars may be from chisels or gouges but until the X-rays have been returned from the AML we will be unable to confirm this interpretation. A small number of dress items included 5 buckles identified in the field, 16 rings, some of which may have been either brooches or buckles, and more than 60 pins. A number of pins thought at first to be styli have now been recognised as heckle teeth. Other domestic items included 5 sets of shears, 16 keys or girdle hangers and 3 sets of tweezers.

Although they are corroded, the condition of much of the ironwork was reasonably good with potential for more secure identification once the X-rays have been completed. The knives offer some research potential on account of their number and the opportunity for comparative analysis with those found in the cemetery. The knives range in size from 100-250mm, the majority being of Early Anglo-Saxon date and belonging to the same categories as those found in the cemetery. There is evidence for smithing on site; its context is, however, not well understood (see also 4.15.4 Iron). Potential for the recovery of mineral-preserved organics

Amongst the most important evidence recovered from the cemetery was a large body of mineral-preserved and mineral-replaced organic evidence, in particular textiles. It is important that the potential for the recovery of similar evidence from the metalwork from the settlement be investigated, given the rarity of the opportunity to compare and contrast materials from funerary and domestic contexts. This work may contribute to our ability to confirm object function, and may assist us in understanding, for instance, the formation processes in the Grubenhäuser where organic materials probably formed a large part of the rubbish infilling. Any such organic evidence on discarded metalwork may provide a body of evidence to compare with that identified in the soil thin-section analysis (see also 4.16 Conservation Assessment). Potential for metallurgical analysis

The large number of knives from the Early- and Middle-Saxon periods and the group recovered from the cemetery provide an excellent opportunity for a metallographic sectioning programme which may produce important new evidence to assist in the definition of categories in the type series. This work could be undertaken within the AML, with only limited resource implications for the analytical programme. Such a programme would draw heavily on the stratigraphic sequencing and phasing evidence, and should perhaps best be examined once this part of the analytical programme is complete. The research potential is considerably enhanced by the presence of material from both domestic and funerary deposits, for the early period at least (see also 4.11 The Slags and Metal-working Debris and 4.16 Conservation Assessment). Slag and metal-working debris

Metal-working was undertaken at the site and this is demonstrated both by the presence of the bases of two metal-working furnaces in the craft/industry area in the north-west quadrant of the settlement and by fragmentary remains of other furnaces at the southern end of the excavated area, particularly to the west of the spring area. In one case, in Area 2DC, the base of a furnace comprising rammed red chalk and clay remained intact, sealed by the medieval field headland. Associated with this feature was half of a stone tuyere, whilst a large re-used saddle quern less than 5m away may have served as an anvil. The assessment of the c.500 fragments, 30% of the sample of slag and cinder, by Jane Cowgill, has indicated that whilst smithing was definitely taking place on site, smelting is unlikely. The evidence recovered from West Heslerton offers the opportunity for research into domestic iron-working, and should be integrated with research into the iron objects. There is very little in the way of non ferrous slags, although the recovery of one complete crucible and fragments of others suggests that more exotic metal-working and enamelling may have taken place, even if only on a small scale (see also 4.11 The Slags and Metal-working Debris). Coinage

imageFig. 3.30 Coinage: frequency by period

There are 115 coins, over 90% of which are Roman with more than 50% dating from the 4th century. They have yet to be examined in detail and more than 25% are of unidentified date; however, those that are easily identified are from the mid to late 4th century. Amongst these, coins of both Valentinian and Gratian derived from Roman contexts which also produced Late Roman ceramics, in particular 'Signal Station' wares, and together these formed the basis of the initial identification of the late Roman date of the occupation at the southern end of the settlement. Half of the coinage was recovered in 1995 and preliminary identification confirms the Roman date of much of the activity associated with the final phase of the ritual site. The double apse building, for instance, had a coin of Constantine I in the foundations, with a coin of Honorius associated with the destruction phase. The distribution of coinage in the areas examined in 1995 may be of importance in the interpretation of how the ritual site operated. The highest density of coinage was associated with a series of bread ovens cut into the side of the valley, perhaps as part of a 'fast-food' stall on the route through from the spring towards the shrines. The Middle Saxon sceattas and stycas demonstrate that occupation continued until c. AD 850 (see also 4.15.3 Coins).


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Last updated: Tue Dec 15 1998