chapter  5
44 Pages

The Stable Communities

The origin of metallurgy is generally taken to mark a significant stage in the development of prehistoric society as well as technology, though the first metal objects in Britain were on the whole of limited use and circulation: copper daggers, awls, knives, a few axes, gold ornaments. Few of these have been found in the South West, an awl from Gwithian and a knife from a Beaker burial at Fernworthy on Dartmoor being the most notable. Flat axes of copper shortly afterwards appear in the record and these are commoner in Devon and Cornwall (e.g. Paul, Ipplepen, Burleigh Camp). Broad, flat axes in tin-bronze probably overlap with these (Harlyn Bay, Hemyock and Kentisbeare: an unfinished example at Drewsteignton hints at manufacture here). Slimmer types with narrower blades were soon developed and an open mould for such axes was found at Altarnun on Bodmin Moor. Decorated forms followed, represented by pieces from Axmouth and two with chevron ornament from Trenovissick. Other bronze forms, such as the daggers so well known in Wessex, are very rare in the South West (Pearce 1983: 81). Later, by 16001500 b c , daggers, flanged axes and other weapons and tools were more widely distributed in the region and were probably being made here. The major testimony comes from the Plymstock hoard, buried about 1500 b c , which contained sixteen flanged axes, three daggers, a spear and a punch. The ensemble looks like that of a metal-smith who had acquired elements in his repertoire from central European sources, not necessarily directly (below, p. 133). Daggers, mainly of Camerton-Snowshill type, are at this time in a number of graves, at Caerloggas I, Harlyn Bay, Farway, Hameldon, Rillaton, Pelynt and Huntshaw, echoing the deposition of these prestigious objects in contemporary burials in Wessex (Gerloff 1975; Miles 1975a: 32-4). Other dagger-types of the same period are known from Woodbury, Newquay, Upton Pyne and East Putford, all from burials.