Cardiff Studies in Archaeology - Specialist Report Number 18


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The assemblage recovered from the site is now very substantial and artefactual material from mound 2 and 2A has been particularly prolific. This season alone we recovered over 482 pieces of worked antler, 160 pieces of worked bone, 13 whalebone objects, 22 lead objects, 48 copper alloy objects, 423 iron objects, 54 stone tools (24 of which were steatite), 5 glass beads and over 189 flints.

The bulk of the antler assemblage represented debris from the production of combs on mound 2A. It includes antler offcuts (196 pieces), roughly shaped blocks of antler (94 pieces), shavings (58 groups), and prepared blanks (33 pieces) ready for final assembly into a comb. Mixed with this material are some broken fragments of old combs and fragments of copper alloy. It is also clear that the bone working was not solely concerned with comb production. There are at least two playing pieces and two cubes, which are probably unfinished die. The playing pieces were clearly turned on some form of lathe. Amongst the bone and antler waste are at least two pieces of walrus ivory.

Finished artefacts are also relatively common finds. There are around 62 fragments of combs, two fragments of decorated plaques, seven needles, 42 pins or pin fragments, 27 points, eight spindle whorls and three weaving tablets.

The most interesting object is a bone cylinder decorated with an incised animal (Figure 9). This object is 0.75 m long and is a flattened cylinder, which narrows from a maximum width of 0.50 m to a width of 0.85 m at the bottom. Adjacent to the bottom edge are at least three and possibly five small holes. A lion motif is incised on the curved side and a scroll or tendril decoration was present on the flattened side. The latter has been heavily eroded/abraded and suggests the object was allowed to rub against something during its use. A cursory examination of the literature has so far revealed only one similar object from Arnes in Norway (Wilson and Klindt-Jensen 1966, 127-128, Fuglesang 1980, 126). This is a cylinder 0.60 m long with small rivet holes around the top edge. These are stained by rust on the inside. Fuglesang argues that this object is decorated in the Mammen style and she interprets it as a mount for a dagger sheath. The diameter of the Bornais object is too large to suggest a sheath but the holes suggest that it was attached to some form of organic material. It may be a leather container and the wear suggests this hung from a belt at an individual's side. The elaborate decoration might suggest this was the mouth of a bag for water or alcohol.

Stylistically the art is clearly executed in the Ringerike Style and the characteristic features are the mane and tail. These are arranged in relatively straight lines, curving in one direction and having an abruptly curled tip. This feature copies the arrangement of tendrils on more complex Ringerike designs (Fuglesang 1980, 15) and is exemplified by the design of the lion on Heggen weather-vane (Wilson and Klindt-Jensen 1966, Figure 61). The simplicity of the design is unusual for a portable object and the best parallels are the lion motifs on Swedish memorial stones such as Tullstrop, Scania (Wilson and Klindt-Jensen 1966, Figure 4), Stora Ek and Norra Åsarp, Vastergötland (Wilson and Klindt- Jensen 1966, Figure 62) (Figure 10). The difference between the Tullstrop stone and those from Stora Ek and Norra Åsarp illustrate the difference between a Mammen and Ringerike style lion.

Finds decorated in Ringerike style are conventionally dated to '....the first half of the eleventh century .. but some were probably produced on into the third quarter of the century' (Fuglesang 1980, 26), and it is perhaps significant that there were close artistic contacts between Ireland and Scandinavia in the second half of the eleventh century (ibid 53). This date is within the boundary of the late eleventh or early twelfth century date for this context suggested last year (Sharples 1999, 28 - see also the on-line 1999 interim report) largely on the basis of imported pottery.

The assemblage of lead and copper alloy is dominated by fragments of sheet and strip metal and may represent the recycling of scrap on the site, though as yet no crucibles, moulds, or any other evidence for fine metalworking, has been found. A further three complete stick pins have been found and this brings the assemblage to a total of 10. These are distinctive objects clearly derived from the Irish Sea area, most probably Dublin, and this is now the largest assemblage in Scotland, outside of Whithorn (Hill 1997). Another object of interest was a key, almost identical to that found last year and found not more than a metre away on mound 2A (Figure 11). Nails again dominate the assemblage of iron objects but other artefacts, including a reasonable number of knives, were recovered.

A particularly interesting discovery were five glass and one amber bead. Only one glass bead has been discovered previously and it is not clear why more should suddenly begin to appear this year. They all come from mound 2 and are scattered throughout the stratigraphy; from a context just above the floor of the earliest house, from the artefact rich deposits associated with the floor of the second house and from the floor of the final house.

The ceramic assemblage continues to grow with a total weight of 38,784 g from this years work (32564.5 g from mound 2 and 6219.5 g from mound 2A). This included a large part of the vessel imported from Wessex, which was discussed in last years report, and several small fragments of vessels, which may also be imports, though there are no glazed sherds. We also found almost half a very large platter, broken just above the secondary floor of the hall in mound 2.

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