Late Bronze Age bangle fragment

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Carnoustie Late Bronze Age Bangle

This fragment of a cannel coal or shale bangle is an example of a Late Bronze Age item of jewellery that was comparatively rare in Scotland and which could well be contemporary with the hoard of metalwork found just around 5 m away. The recurrent association of such bangles with other valuable items including metalwork suggests that they formed part of the ‘vocabulary of esteem’ among the elite of Late Bronze Age society.

‘Its size suggests that it had been an adult’s,’ said Alison Sheridan, from National Museums Scotland, who analysed the bangle. ‘The discovery of such a bangle in a domestic context in northern Britain, datable from the roundhouse in which the pit was located, represents a welcome addition both to the contextual range of find spots and to the chronological evidence for the use of this type of object during the Late Bronze Age.’

Fragment of cannel coal or shale bangle from Carnoustie

It is hard to tell whether locally-available cannel coal or oil shale had been used to manufacture this bangle, since sourcing these particular materials requires sampling of the object. However, there are abundant supplies of cannel coal in the coalfield deposits of Fife, and shale is also available within a few kilometres of Carnoustie, so in theory this need not have been an exotic import. While Late Bronze Age bangles are likely to have been made by specialists, the scale of production in northern Britain may not have been large, to judge from their rarity.

As for how the bangle had been made, there are two basic methods: the first involves pecking or gouging a hole in the centre of a roughout then expanding the hole by cutting, and the second involves cutting a disc from the centre, leaving a disc-shaped waster or ‘core’, usually with a bevelled edge (from where the disc had been cut from either side of the roughout). The latter technique, rare in Scotland, is characteristic of Iron Age and early medieval bangles, and no pre-Iron Age example of a disc-shaped waster is known. This suggests that the Carnoustie bangle had probably been made by expanding a small central hole; the cut-marks running around the interior of the hoop are consistent with this.

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