This afternoon I completed my second fact-finding version of the fabulous Must Farm Bronze Age box. The first attempt involved making an approximation of the box excavated at Must Farm to show me some of the general problems I would be likely to encounter. The second was more about all the little devils in the detail.
The first task was to study the fabulous artefact drawings and note the box’s measurements. The box was found in pieces and one end is very poorly preserved. This means that whilst the width and depth measurements are fairly reliable, the length is not. The finer details, like wall thickness, are variable. That’s probably for more than one reason, including the different parts that have survived and the way the waterlogged wood has changed shape over time, as well as the original dimensions as carved.
Having settled on the dimensions that I would carve to, this is what I cut:
Version 2 is closer to the original, in terms of shape and size, than version 1, and I have included an internal lip as suggested by the drawings. This might have been the seat for a lid, although no lid was found with the box. Like the first, this second version is willow.
The willow again was problematic: whilst its fresh, green, state made it really easy to cut, the open fibrous nature of this wood makes it difficult to get a good clean finish in the small, confined spaces of the box. To make progress I’ve got to the stage where I need to know the original wood species – and will have to wait for the post-excavation analysis.
In dealing with some of the torn and hairy wood fibres I have over-cut in various places, so that the dimensions aren’t quite perfect. In trying to make the interior of the long side walls close to vertical, I have over-cut the depth of the interior by a couple millimetres. This has left the base rather thin, whilst the two short end walls are too thick at the base and slightly over-cut at the top.
On the flip side, I have to make assumptions about the dimensions to cope with the missing parts. The lid seat is a good example of this. There isn’t much information in the drawings about it, I have made decisions about the shape and size, so the spots that I am unhappy about are only where I have failed to meet my own instructions – not necessarily what the box really looked like.
I have cut the lid seat around the whole of my box. A lid for my version 2 would therefore have to press down onto the top of the box, engaging with all four sides. One short end of the Bronze Age box, however, is (mostly) missing, so I can’t actually tell if this is how it looked originally. It might have been open at the missing end, so that a lid could slide onto the seat – like a wooden pencil or domino box.
That interpretation is less likely, because there the original doesn’t seem to have channels cut in the long sides for a lid to slide along.
Hence my interpretation of a seat to house a lid engaging vertically with the box.