Monthly Archives: July 2018

Comparing the Carnoustie and Pyotdykes spearheads

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the Carnoustie spearhead

The Carnoustie spearhead was probably the star find of the dig. But it’s not the only gold decorated bronze spearhead to be found in this part of Scotland.



Pyotdykes spearhead © The McManus: Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum

Another Bronze Age hoard was recovered at Pyotdykes farm just outside Dundee in 1963 and it too includes a gold decorated bronze spearhead. Indeed the discovery of the Carnoustie hoard spurred one of the specialists involved in our post-excavation programme of works, Alison Sheridan of the National Museums of Scotland to re-examine the Pyotdykes artefacts – two swords and the spearhead – which are held by The McManus – Dundee’s Art Gallery and Museum.

details of gold decoration of Carnoustie spearhead socket

Though a different shape to the Carnoustie spearhead, it is again the socket of the Pyotdykes spearhead which is embellished with a gold strip. The decoration on the Carnoustie band is decorated with a herringbone design between zones of two to three concentric lines,

detail of gold decoration around Pyotdykes spearhead socket. Photo by Lore Troalen of NMS


The Pyotdykes band has a more elaborate scheme featuring filled triangles between zones of up to seven lines. In each case, the design was probably incised into the end of the bronze socket, and then a seamless hoop of thin gold foil was slipped over the end and pressed in, to take the design.



One of the Pyotdykes swords had been buried in a scabbard made from hazelwood, just as the Carnoustie sword had been. As with the Carnoustie hoard, this proved really useful in providing suitable material for radiocarbon dating. The Pyotdykes hoard is now dated to 900–790 BC, slightly later than the Carnoustie Hoard which was dated to between 1118-924 BC.

The dates are interesting because they suggest that the two hoards were probably not contemporary with each other but may have been separated in time by as much as 300 years. This makes the similarities between the hoards all the more fascinating because while these suggest a similar idea behind why they were buried – perhaps safe-keeping rather than ritual given that the Carnoustie hoard lies within the middle of a settlement unlike most hoards which were deposited in watery places (rivers, bogs, lochs) – it was not one event that spurred this. This cultural custom of burying precious possessions for safe-keeping (for whatever reasons) was probably practised in this region for several centuries in the Late Bronze Age. And for whatever reasons, those who buried the hoards at Carnoustie and Pyotdykes, never returned to reclaim them.

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Carnoustie High School Workshops

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Earlier in June a team of GUARD Archaeologists made a visit to Carnoustie High School, which lies adjacent to the archaeological site. Approximately 22 students had been selected by the school for some archaeological workshops. An initial presentation by the excavation director provided an overview of the project from the initial evaluation, through the excavation, and into the post-excavation process, which is the stage we are at the moment. After the talk, the school students were split into two groups, one for drawing artefacts and one for photography, with each workshop led by GUARD Archaeology’s Graphics Officers.

During the Artefacts Illustration workshop, the students were shown a selection of finds from Carnoustie (prehistoric stone tools, lithics and pottery) and were then asked to select one that they would like to draw. They then learned how to draw different types of artefacts by drawing around it then using dividers to measure and correct the outline. They also used a magnifier to add in detail and were given a small light to create a light source for shading. Once they had finished the pencil drawing they traced over it using fibre tipped pens to produce a final drawing.

For the Artefacts Photography workshop, the students took pictures of prehistoric stone tools and pottery using either a portable light box or portable desk lights. They learned how to use photo scales and also how lighting can emphasise detail of an object. The students were also taught how to use a digital SLR camera to achieve best results for close up images of artefacts under different lighting.


These workshops will be followed up with a second day in Autumn 2018 which will examine more of the results from the post-excavation analyses and the science behind each specialism.

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