Treasure Trove: Bronze Age horse harness and sword discovered

A Bronze Age hoard of national significance has been found by a metal detectorist in the Scottish Borders.

A complete horse harness and sword were uncovered at the site near Peebles in what is only the second time this kind of hoard has been found in Scotland.

Thanks to the way the harness has been preserved by the soil, experts are able to see, for the first time, how Bronze Age horse harnesses were assembled.

The hoard, dating from 1000 – 900 BC, was discovered by Mariusz Stepien who was searching the field with friends on 21 June when he found a bronze object buried half a metre underground.

As he was getting strong signals from the earth around the object, Mr Stepien contacted the Treasure Trove Unit to report his find.

Treasure Trove: Bronze Age horse harness and sword discovered

He said: “I thought I’ve never seen anything like this before and felt from the very beginning that this might be something spectacular and I’ve just discovered a big part of Scottish history. I was over the moon, actually shaking with happiness.”

As archaeologists spent 22 days investigating the site, Mr Stepien and his friends camped in the field and built a shelter to protect the find from the elements.

Mr Stepien added: “We wanted to be a part of the excavation from the beginning to the end.

“I will never forget those 22 days spent in the field. Every day there were new objects coming out which changed the context of the find, every day we learned something new.

“I’m so pleased that the earth revealed to me something that was hidden for more than 3000 years. I still can’t believe it happened!”

During the dig, archaeologists found a sword still in its scabbard, decorated straps, buckles, rings, ornaments and chariot wheel axel caps. There is also evidence of a decorative ‘rattle pendant’ that would have hung off the harness – the first one to be found in Scotland and only the third in the UK.

The soil had preserved organic materials like leather and wood, allowing experts to trace the straps that connected the rings and buckles together to make the harness. This has never been seen before in Britain and gives a unique insight into Bronze Age society.

Emily Freeman, head of the Treasure Trove Unit, who is overseeing the recovery and assessment of the find, said: “This is a nationally significant find – so few Bronze Age hoards have been excavated in Scotland, it was an amazing opportunity for us to not only recover bronze artefacts, but organic material as well. There is still a lot of work to be done to assess the artefacts and understand why they were deposited.

“We could not have achieved this without the responsible actions of the finder or the support of the landowners. The finder was quick to action when they realised that they had found an in situ hoard, which resulted in the Treasure Trove Unit and National Museums Scotland being on site within days of discovery.”

The hoard has been removed from the site in a large block of soil and taken to National Museums Collection Centre in Edinburgh where further excavations and research will take place.

Queen’s and Lord Treasurer’s Remembrancer (QLTR), David Harvie, said: “This Bronze Age hoard is highly significant and promises to give us a new insight into Scotland’s history.

“I would like to thank the finder who discovered these wonderful items and whose quick actions in contacting the Treasure Trove will ensure these objects can be properly preserved and studied.”

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