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Archaeologists discover prehistoric weapons on RSPB Scotland reserve

Last modified: 15 October 2015

Archaeologists have discovered 3,000-year-old bronze weapons buried on the RSPB Scotland nature reserve on the Isle of Coll.

Broken swords and spearheads were found at the site during an archaeological investigation directed by the Treasure Trove Unit (1), in coordination with National Museums Scotland (2) and the wildlife charity.

In total, twelve objects were excavated from at least seven separate weapons. The material was claimed by the Crown and allocated through the Treasure Trove processes to Kilmartin Museum in Argyll for ongoing conservation and care.

Jill Harden, RSPB Scotland Reserves Archaeologist, said: “This is the first discovery of this size from Argyll for many years. The items were recovered from what had once been a freshwater loch. It seems that they had been purposely broken and cast into the waters as part of a ceremony, most likely as offerings or gifts to the gods or goddesses of the time. It is recorded that bronze swords were found on Coll in the 19th century during drainage works, but their whereabouts today are unknown.”

Trevor Cowie, of National Museums Scotland’s Department of Scottish History & Archaeology, said: “While a fair number of objects from this period have been discovered in the west of Scotland in the past, we generally know very little about the precise places where they were found. Archaeological techniques have developed dramatically since those 19th century discoveries were made, so we have a great opportunity here to resolve many unanswered questions about life on Coll some 3,000 years ago.”

Now that the prehistoric weapons have been handed over to Kilmartin Museum, an event is being held on October 15 and 16 at the community centre, An Cridhe, on the Isle of Coll to enable people to see the finds. Trevor Cowie of National Museums Scotland will also give a talk about the discovery, ahead of a Q&A with archaeologists from RSPB Scotland and Kilmartin Museum to discuss ideas for future projects on Coll.

Jill Harden added: “It is expected that a consortium of local interests, universities and museums will come together to reveal the full history of these objects in time. However, their story is much broader than that of the items themselves. We should be able to reveal what Coll’s landscape was like in the past, how much it has altered over time, and whether there were contemporary environmental stresses that meant people resorted to making offerings to the gods in the hope of change.”

RSPB Scotland regularly undertakes archaeological studies on its reserves. Being able to reveal a broader context reflects the wildlife charity’s commitment to understanding Scotland’s environment as a whole.

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