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More Rare Pieces of the Past Discovered! 19 September 2008

Artefacts from the earliest period of metal-working on the Isle of Man have been discovered and donated to Manx National Heritage for the national museum collections. Two copper axeheads and a blade were discovered by metal detector Mr Rob Middleton on land owned by David Anderson MHK in Patrick.

The axeheads date from the Copper Age, or Chalcolithic, around c.2500 – 2150 BC – right at the point where metal was being adopted as the new, modern material to replace flint.

The finder of the axeheads, Rob Middleton, said:The copper axeheads and blade

“I’m thrilled these artefacts are being donated to Manx National Heritage for our national museum. I was very excited when I discovered them, as I’ve spent many years searching for Bronze Age material. They were discovered over a period of four months and spread over a large area of ground. Searching last winter was extremely difficult due to wet conditions but I’m glad my perseverance paid off! I’d like to thank the landowner for allowing me to search on his land over many years. It’s particularly pleasing to find something of national importance there. On the Isle of Man, we’re lucky to have a good relationship with Manx National Heritage as the national heritage agency, with regard to responsible metal detecting. Because of this good relationship, many important finds have been donated to the national collections in recent years.”

David Anderson MHK said:

“I’m pleased that artefacts of such importance have been discovered on our land. I have known Rob for many years and he has brought lots of interesting finds to my attention. Rob is very knowledgeable about what he finds, so when he brought the axeheads to show me, I had no doubt that he was correct in their identification. I am pleased to donate the artefacts into the care of MNH and look forward to finding out even more about them from the research that can now be carried out.”

Allison Fox, Curator: Archaeology for Manx National Heritage commented:

The Chairman of MNH Trustees receives the axeheads“When Mr Middleton discovered the artefacts, he was very careful not to clean them, or even wipe the surface soil away, which was exactly the right thing to do. The soil surrounding artefacts can often hold as much information as the artefacts themselves and acts as a protective layer for the surface of the object. Due to his care, the possibilities for further research are good, enabling us to find out a little more about the point in time when the Isle of Man left the ‘Stone Age’ and embraced the new technology of metal-working. We are very grateful to both Mr Middleton and Mr Anderson for all their assistance and generosity.”

Copper/Bronze Age metal artefacts are relatively uncommon on the Isle of Man and only 3 or 4 such early pieces of metal have so far been found. These pieces contained traces of copper from Ireland and Wales, which could be the source of the copper in the newly-discovered axeheads. However, intriguingly, there is evidence to support the theory that copper deposits at Bradda Head and Langness may have been mined in prehistory, so perhaps these axeheads were of truly Manx origin. The specific date and source of material are two of the questions that will hopefully be answered in the future. Further research will be carried out on the axeheads before they are permanently displayed in the Prehistoric Gallery at the Manx Museum, Douglas.

The Manx Museum is open 10am – 5pm Monday to Saturday. Admission is free.

NOTE: There is a legal requirement in the Isle of Man for finders of objects of archaeological interest to report these finds within 14 days of discovery.

Bottom Image: Chairman of the Trustees of MNH, Mr Martin Moore (left), receives the axeheads from Mr Rob Middleton (centre) and Mr David Anderson MHK (right)

For further information, please contact: Allison Fox

E-mail: allison.fox@mnh.gov.im Tel: 01624 648000

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