I’m not the first…

…to observe that photographs accompanying museum online catalogue entries often don’t show you the one thing you most want to see.   Nothing beats studying and handling the objects themselves.   A case in point are cast copper alloy artefacts.   Blades, such as Bronze Age swords and daggers, are always photographed longitudinally.   This makes it very difficult to pick out clues about the casting methods that were used to make the objects.

When I started to clean up the sword (see previous blog post) the first thing I did was to remove the pouring cup from the hilt and the little spur of bronze from the tip of the blade.   During the casting the molten metal was poured, vertically, from the crucible into the pouring cup.   When Neil Burridge made the sword mould he included a little channel continuing from the tip for about 2cm, to ensure that the molten metal ran all the way down to the bottom of the sword tip during the pour.

pouring cup scar

Pouring cup scar, May 2013

I used a hacksaw to remove the pouring cup and spur, but following some filing and grinding it is only the pouring cup scar that remains.   With more work, this too will become harder to see.   And this will finally be covered by a grip.   There is a palstave axe on display at the Corinium Museum which still has a slight visible scar.

Were blades like this sword cast from the tip or the hilt?   Having studied these objects in close detail, Neil concludes that at first they were cast from the tip; but that as the Bronze Age proceeded, casting moved to the hilt.

Whilst it is likely that in the Bronze Age waste metal was gathered up for recycling, I still have the pouring cup.

Sword pouring cup

Sword pouring cup, May 2013