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The Bronze Age

Hunting & Warfare

Rapier Blade, Drumcoltran

Bronze Age

From the collection of Dr Grierson, this hoard of rapier blades were found in 1837 near Kirkgunzeon, and all date from the Middle Bronze Age. From a find of a dozen blades, it is believed that they may be of Irish origin due to the notches on their blades and well defined midribs. The main difference between a dagger and a rapier at this time is the size of the weapon. The design came from both native traditions and from the European continent.


The first metalwork


Metal working was a complex and lengthy process. A small pit was dug, filled with crushed ore and charcoal, and then ignited. The temperature was raised by using bellows, perhaps made of animal skin. Once smelting had occurred the molten metal collected in a crucible and tipped into the mould. After cooling the casting was removed and hammered to smooth any rough edges.


Cutting edges on axe heads would have been sharpened by hammering or grinding. When stone moulds were in use shapes tended to be simple, but about 3,500 years ago multiple section clay moulds were developed which enabled more complicated shapes to be made. Early Bronze Age metal workers used pure copper, but this made objects which were flexible in use and difficult to cast. After a period of experimentation, bronze, an alloy of 90 per cent copper and 10 per cent tin was developed.


In Dumfries and Galloway most Bronze Age metalwork has been found on lowlands and in river valleys. The River Nith especially has revealed many finds, perhaps because traders and settlers used it to move between the Solway shores and Ayrshire.

Place of Production:
Believed to be Irish in origin
Place of Discovery:
Dumfries Museum & Camera Obscura
Accession number:
Digital Number:
RCAHMS site record:
Drumcoltran Hoard
Burgess and Gerloff, C B and S (1981) 'The dirks and rapiers of Great Britain and Ireland, Prahistorische Bronzefunde, New, vol.4, 7 Muchen Page(s): 57, 58-9, 115, nos. 17, 424-6 and 448-51.