British Collection Highlights:

The Isle of Harty Hoard from Kent

The Isle of Harty Hoard from Kent was first described in 1873, and acquired by the Ashmolean through the John Evans Collection.

The hoard is unique in that it includes three complete bronze moulds and several objects that have been cast from them. In addition, the hoard contains socketed bronze hammers, another unusual find in hoards.

Moulds are rare additions to hoards, and no other known bronze hoard has three complete moulds along with the objects that had been cast from them.

Mould (AN1927.2490) was used to produce five south-eastern type socketed axes. This particular style of axe with its slender body, slightly flaring blade, and wing decorations, is named for the Isle of Harty, although similar axes have been found in the Stourmouth Hoard, also from Kent. On one, the decoration is lost, possibly due to corrosion, but identical mould seams and other imperfections indicate that all of these axes came from the same mould.

The two other axe moulds (AN1927.2498, AN1927.2501) in the hoard were used to cast smaller axes that are undecorated, and are shorter and broader than the south-eastern style.

In addition, a mould (AN1927.2507) and its cast of a woodworking gouge (AN1927.2509) are part of the hoard. Gouges similar to this one are found in hoards throughout south-eastern England.

Both of the hammers included in the hoard have square bodies and faceted faces. This type of hammer is the most popular type found in Late Bronze Age hoards and could have been used for sheet metal work or for sharpening axes by hammering the blades.

The Isle of Harty Hoard shows us a unique glimpse of the metalworker’s craft in the Late Bronze Age. Here we have the moulds used to produce axes, along with ingots of copper that would be mixed with tin and lead for casting. The hammers and whetstone could have been used to sharpen the tools, and the gouges to carve wooden handles.

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Isle of Harty Hoard (Click to enlarge)

Late Bronze Age hoardfrom the Isle of Harty, Kent (AN1927.2490-AN1927-2520)

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Giovanna Fregni
October 2012