Hillforts: objects

 

Craft and industry

The objects in this case show items used in the daily life of the hillfort, from farming and fishing to weaving, metal working and cooking.

Stone anchors from Sicar Rock near Dunbar

Stone anchors from Dunbar

Stone anchors from Dunbar

Local divers discovered six stone anchors on the sea bed in 1998. The anchors have an upper rope hole and a lower hole for a wooden stick or ‘fluke’.

We don’t know how old these anchors are but similar anchors from the Mediterranean are prehistoric.

Perhaps they are from a small fleet of Iron Age fishing boats?

“I dived on anchors like this in the Mediterranean but never knew there were some so close to home. Historic Scotland asked us to survey them in the summer of 2012. These anchors are a real mystery in terms of date and use but one I think we can solve with a little bit more investigation”. John McCarthy, Wessex Archaeology

Find out more about the anchors

Clay crucible

Clay crucible

Clay crucible

Its size suggests it was used to melt metal to cast small items such as pins or jewellery.

A crucible is a small container in which metals are melted during metalworking. This type of small crucible was made by making a small ‘thumb pot’ out of clay. It probably had a small handle ‘pinched out’ to the side for holding the crucible in the furnace, which has broken off. This would have held a very small amount of metal such as bronze, lead, silver or gold and poured into a mould. Moulds would have also been made of clay and are also sometimes found on metalworking sites. At some Iron Age sites remains of furnaces have been found as well as tools such as anvils, hammers and chisels.

Slags from metal production

Slags from metal production

Slags from iron and glass production.

Slag is the waste material from iron making. It sinks to the bottom of the furnace during smelting and is removed after the molten iron.  Smelting uses heat and carbon from charcoal to remove oxygen from the ore, leaving the metal behind.

When archaeologists find large amounts of slag on sites, it is likely that iron processing was going on in the area. Iron ore or bog iron can be found in lochs or bogs.

The glassy piece of slag may be from glass production, although copper smelting sometimes produces a similar blue glassy material on the surface of the slag.

Stone spindle whorls

Stone spindle whorls

Spindle whorls

Used on a drop spindle for spinning wool.

These spindle whorls are made of stone but they are also often made of clay. Similar objects are found in the medieval case – see if you would be able to tell the difference – these may have been made 1000 years apart!

The spindle whorl has a hole in the centre, which would have held a rod of wood or bone. The unspun wool would have been held under the spinners arm, teased out and then wound around the rod as it was spun. The weight of the spindle whorl allows it to spin and twist the unspun wool into thread. The spindle rods do not often survive on excavations as they are made of wood.

Loom weight

Loom weight

Loom weight

Used to weigh down the yarn on an upright loom.

Upright or vertical looms were used for making cloth. The warp threads were hung down with weights at the bottom to keep them taut, and the weft threads were woven horizontally across. There is evidence that sheep were kept in hillforts and they were probably kept for their fleeces as well as for meat and milk.

The cloth could be dyed by soaking in vegetable or plant dyes such as roots, berries, bark, leaves and wood. These were added to the dye bath often with a mordant to bind the dye – this might be tannin from oak, salt or often stale urine! How do you think they discovered this?

Fragments of clothes and traces of plant dyes have been found on some archaeological sites, where particularly wet or dry conditions have preserved them. These show that red, blue and yellow dyes from plants were all used in the late Bronze Age and Iron Age.

Whetstone

Whetstone

Whetstone

Polished stone for sharpening knives.

Whetstones were used to sharpen tools and weapons. They are made of fine grained stone to get a sharp edge and are usually polished from use.

 
Bone with cutmarks

Bone with cutmarks

Burnt bone with cut marks

From midden at North Berwick Law. Cut marks are from butchery or making bone tools.

 

Great balls of fire?

Sandstone balls and mould

Sandstone balls and mould

These balls and ‘mould’ were found in the 1940s at Craig’s Quarry, an Iron Age fort near Dirleton.

We don’t know what they were used for but they are very well made. They may be sling stones used to defend the hillfort. What do you think?

 

 

Iron Age pottery

Iron Age pottery

Iron Age pottery

Pottery was usually made using local clay. Stones, broken pot or straw, called ‘temper’, were added for greater strength.

A section has been sliced off one of the pots and analysed under a microscope. This shows the types of clay and temper used and where the clay came from.

 

Lower half of rotary quern

Lower half of rotary quern

Rotary quern

This is the lower half of a rotary quern, used for grinding grain into flour. Each household would have had their own quern. They are usually made of hard stone such as granite, to prevent the flour getting gritty!




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