Collapsing commodities or lavish offerings? Understanding large scale Late Bronze Age metal deposition at Langton Matravers, Dorset

The discovery of 373 intact and broken tin-bronze socketed axes accompanied by 404 fragments in four pits at Langton Matravers collectively represents one of the largest hoards found to date in prehistoric Britain and Ireland. They were very probably never meant to be used as axes as they contain very high levels of tin. Many were poorly finished with the majority still containing their casting cores. The axes are typologically dated to the Llyn Fawr metalwork phase (c. 800-600 BC) and span the Bronze Age/Iron Age transition, when the production, circulation and deposition of bronze appears to have been substantially reduced throughout north-west Europe. By placing the Langton Matravers hoard(s) in a broader metallurgical, material and archaeological context, existing theories for this phenomenon, such as the preference for iron, a collapse in bronze supply, or the sharp devaluation of a social or ritual ‘bronze standard’ are evaluated. It is proposed that the Langton Matravers axes belong to a short phase in the centuries-long processes underlying the changing roles of bronze and iron.

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