4,000-year-old Bronze Age axe heads found in Argyll

Three Bronze Age axe heads thought to be around 4,000-years-old have been found in Argyll by one of Scotland's most successful metal detectorists.

An early Bronze Age axe head - one of three found by metal detectorist Derek McLennan. It is thought the find is around 4,000 years old. PIC Contributed.

Derek McLennan made the discovery at Ardkinglas Estate near Loch Fyne at a metal detecting rally last month with the items believed to be amongst the oldest of their type ever found in Scotland.

The discovery of the three axe heads represents another major find for Mr McLennan who in 2014 uncovered the largest haul of Viking treasure of modern times in Dumfries and Galloway.

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Mr McLennan, 49. Ayrshire, found the axe heads in the closing hour of the first day of the rally, which was hit by high winds and driving rain.

Derek McLennan at Arkinglas, the site where three early Bronze Age axe heads were discovered. PIC Tommy Baxter.

While superstition dictates McLennan normally veers to the left of any field searched, Mr McLennan said he found the items after inexplicably moving to the right of the rain-soaked ground.

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After his metal detector indicated a large find with a “resounding boom”, he removed the earth to investigate further and saw the “green colour of old bronze peeking through.”

As the rain washed away the earth, the significance of his find became apparent.

The three axe heads recovered at Arkinglas last month. PIC Contributed.

He said: “I saw the unmistakable outline of an axe head’s crescent shaped blade. For some reason I bolted upright and stood there looking at the stunning 4000 year old artefact that was appearing before my eyes, and all because of the ‘beautiful’ Scottish rain. It’s amazing how nice finds can quickly change your opinion.

He added: “The feeling of picking up such a wonderful ancient artefact and holding it in your hands is just incredible and one that I will undoubtedly never forget.”

Mr McLennan found the axe heads within a metre-and-a-half of each other.

Derek McLennan at Arkinglas, the site where three early Bronze Age axe heads were discovered. PIC Tommy Baxter.

Trevor Cowie, senior curator of Scottish history at National Museums Scotland, has given an initial assessment of the hoard

It is believed the axes date over a period of 300 years.

The third axe is believed to be of Irish form, which id consisten with the introduction of bronzes in Argyll during the early Bronze Age, and dates from 2200 to 2000BC

The other two axes are of Scottish form with the first piece believed to a later piece, dates somewhere between 2000-1900 BC.

The three axe heads recovered at Arkinglas last month. PIC Contributed.

More research will be carried out to determine whether the axe heads came from a scattered hoard or individual depositions.

Mr McLennan said: “Whatever the axe head deposit may eventually prove to be, it would be nice to think they belonged to one, or more, of the first wave of ‘Irish’ settlers to come to Scotland, whose family over time eventually became our earliest Scottish ancestors.”

He described his finds as “quite a small, but magical piece of national history, once again discovered through metal detecting and digging holes in fields.”

The Viking treasure discovered by Mr McLennan on a Church of Scotland site is currently being examined by National Museums Scotland and the Treasure Trove Unit, which will determine the financial value of the find.

Mr McLennan is in line to receive a substantial payment for the hoard, which is more than 1,000 years old, was found in a pot. Items inside include six silver Anglo-Saxon disc brooches, a gold ingot and Byzantium silk.