Scanty Copper Alloy From Landsjö

Late Iron Age settlements are full of copper alloy objects, making them the preferred site category of metal detectorists. High Medieval castle sites, on the other hand, are quite poor in these often distinctive and informative finds.

The picture above shows all the copper alloy and lead that my team of ~15 found in over two weeks of excavations at Landsjö castle this past July, screening the dirt and using a metal detector in our trenches. Only seven objects! We collected 133 pieces of iron in that time, of which 77% are sadly nails in various states of completeness and thus not terribly informative.

  • 172 is a piece of folded sheet lead. I'm going to ask the conservator to unfold it, because sometimes they hide magic spells inscribed with runes.
  • 173 is a piece of thin embossed foil that broke after we lifted it. It just might be a really debased bracteate coin. Conservation will tell.
  • 174 is a half-pipe fitting that has been riveted onto something, maybe a strap. Hoping for some decoration to show up.
  • 175 is a rose-shaped embossed-sheet dress spangle, a ströning. Love it!
  • 176 is a thick domed sherd, probably from a tripod cooking pot.
  • 177 is an 18th century jacket button.
  • 178 is a cylindrical cap made of thin sheet, probably also from the 18th century. I don't know what this may have been part of.

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I would have expected the opposite. In Denmark, we usually find loads of small snippets, mounts, and various items of both copper alloy and lead on medieval sites. Not the least at or close to castles.

Anyway, 172 looks like a typical medieval fishing net weight (although I certainly hope it turns out to be an amulet), a frequent find on medieval sites in Denmark. Medieval Fishing Tackle by Steane & Foreman is worth a read (can't find it online anymore). Also, a relevant article by Gavin Lucas can be found here:…

Tobias, could it be that the find density you describe is outside the fortifications and on Late Medieval sites? Landsjö castle has given no evidence of use between about 1360 and 1730.

Fishing weight, excellent suggestion! Thank you!

I would like to know what you think about terms for copper-containing metals. In the usual archaeological parlance I am familiar with the word used pis "cuprous." I have been told that this is not the proper chemical expression for "copper containing" but refers to the valence state of copper in certain compounds. Therefore the preferred term for copper alloys should be "cupreous." Of course calling them copper alloys is also reasonable.

By Charles P. Redwine (not verified) on 20 Aug 2015 #permalink

In archaeology we don't really have a adjective for "containing copper". You do occasionally come across the abbreviation "ae", from Lat. aes.

'course we does yer'onner.
Coppery. It's like bronzy, an' goldy, 'n' irony, 'cept it's made out of copper. (/Baldrick)

By dustbubble (not verified) on 22 Aug 2015 #permalink

Obligatory link to Dilbert from 22 December 1994:

Dilbert: Do you know what irony is?
Boss:I send my shirts to a service.

By Eric Lund (not verified) on 22 Aug 2015 #permalink

I had to look up ströning as I don't know about dress spangles. Very pretty piece! I gather it is a type of pin? What period would you guess?

Not a pin. They were sewn onto the clothing, polished, glinting. The date is 1250-1350 with potential for a tighter date once I've hit the library.