The Ambleside Hoard: 4,000 year-old bronze weapons

Cumbria’s very lucky this summer to have a number of stunning local artefacts on display that we wouldn’t normally be able to see. Tullie House in Carlisle has borrowed the Sewell’s Lane Jug and Embleton Sword from the British Museum; the Dock Museum in Barrow-in-Furness has a hoard of Viking coins until mid July; and the Armitt Museum in Ambleside has persuaded the BM to let them borrow their very own hoard.

Ambleside hoard , copyright British Museum

Ambleside hoard, copyright British Museum

The Ambleside Hoard comprises two swords, a dagger and a rather impressive spear head. They were made from bronze in the aptly named Bronze Age and could be 4,000 years old*. Continue reading

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Langdale axes: Cumbria’s prehistoric export

Whenever The Time Team‘s Phil waxes lyrical about flint knapping, arrowheads and axes, you can hear the TV audience willing the producer to hurry up. They just look like uninteresting flakes of dark grey stuff, which you often wouldn’t realise were anything special if you dug them out of your vegetable patch.

Copyright Michael Greenhalgh

Copyright Michael Greenhalgh

Langdale axes, now – that’s another matter. Made from greenish Borrowdale volcanic stone from the central Lake District, even the ‘rough-out’, unfinished axe heads look purposefully-shaped. The polished ones are amazing. They can be 11 inches long, with roughly parallel sides about 3 or 4 inches wide, an oval cross-section, and an almost glass-like sheen where they have been smoothed to perfection over many weeks.1 They are very hard, resistant to breaking, and often much bigger than their flint equivalents. There’s no mistaking these for natural stones; the skill and deliberateness of their manufacture sings down the millennia. Continue reading

Castlerigg Stone Circle

There is a new, updated and much longer post on Castlerigg here.

Castlerigg stone circle

Castlerigg stone circle

Castlerigg is the most-visited stone circle in Cumbria, and for good reason. For one, it’s well signposted from the A66 and Keswick, and for two, its location is quite spectacular. It lies on a small flat area of a low hill, surrounded by views of Skiddaw, Blencathra, Lonscale, Derwent and Castlerigg fells and as you enter this National Trust site from the road, you can see across the circle to a view of a typical Lake District valley, framed by two massive stones.

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Long Meg & her daughters

I confess to a great liking for Long Meg. For one, I live very near to it and being handy for one of this land’s ancient monuments really tickles my historian’s cockles. It’s enormous – some say the third biggest in the country, but frankly, I’ve also heard second, fourth, fifth and sixth – so let’s just agree that, at a diameter of 109m, it is really big.

Long Meg June 2013

Long Meg June 2013

The largest of the stones in the circle is 3.3m high and estimated to weigh 28 tons. There are 27 stones still standing in the circle, with a whole load of others reclining. ‘Long Meg’ herself is an outlyer, made from local sandstone, and is 3.7m high. The pink stone has a strange quality in certain lights – it ‘glitters’ – and it’s then that you catch sight of the faint, eerily ancient, spiral carvings. Continue reading