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Between Armorican and Norman influences: the Atlantic Middle Bronze Age 2 hoard from Bais, Mayenne (abridged version)

Mélin Muriel et Nordez Marilou
Traduction de Louise Byrne
p. 151-153
Cet article est une traduction de :
Entre influences armoricaines et normandes : le dépôt du Bronze moyen atlantique 2 de Bais (Mayenne) [fr]

Résumés

Mis au jour en avril 2015, le dépôt du bois de Mirebeau à Bais (Mayenne) est composé de haches à talon et de parures annulaires du Bronze moyen 2. Bien qu’il s’agisse à cette période d’une association fréquente dans le Nord-Ouest de la France, l’analyse fine des caractéristiques typologiques et technologiques des objets suscite des considérations chronologiques et culturelles d’un grand intérêt. Nous discutons dans cet article aussi bien de la typologie que de la technologie des quatorze haches et des six parures annulaires, et en particulier de la création d’un nouveau type de haches à talon (type de Bais) combinant des caractéristiques des types breton et normand. Cette nouvelle découverte se trouve à la croisée d’influences armoricaines et normandes, en correspondance avec sa localisation géographique.

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Notes de la rédaction

In collaboration with : Grimaud Valentin [contributor], UMR 6566 CReAAH, Équipe ARchéologie et Architecture, Chemin la Censive du Tertre, 44000 Nantes – valentin.grimaud@univ-nantes.fr.

This article is not quite a traduction but rather is a long summary of the French article « Entre influences armoricaines et normandes : le dépôt du Bronze moyen atlantique 2 de Bais (Mayenne) ».

Texte intégral

1The hoard from Bais, a commune in the northeast of the Mayenne department, was discovered in April 2015, during mechanical logging work in the Mirebeau Forest. According to the site discoverer, who promptly reported the discovery to the service régional d’Archéologie des Pays de la Loire, the twenty objects comprising this metallic assemblage were found in the talus section (fig. 2). The pit containing the hoards was not located during inspections, but a small fragment of an annular ornament was found with a metal detector, used by an SRA agent with prefectural authorisation. We thus have no information on the organization of the objects or the possible presence of a container. These objects were buried on the hillside overlooking the Aron Valley.

Fig. 2 – Probable position of the hoard seemingly found along the talus, but the pit was not located

Fig. 2 – Probable position of the hoard seemingly found along the talus, but the pit was not located

Photo DRAC Pays de la Loire/SRA

2An in-depth study was carried out on the hoard, before it was moved to the new permanent exhibition at the departmental archaeological museum of Jublains in Mayenne.

3The assemblage consists of fourteen palstaves and six annular ornaments and can be confidently dated to the Atlantic Middle Bronze Age 2, as the morphology and decor of the objects are unequivocal, and this association is recurrent in the Northwest of France, where hoards from this period are very stereotyped (Boulud-Gazo et al. 2017). However, the fine analysis of the typological and technological characteristics of the objects raises interesting chronological and cultural considerations, which highlight the importance of this hoard.

The annular ornaments

4The six annular ornaments can be divided into three groups. Four have a solid stem and a plano-convex section decorated with panels of geometric motifs. They are part of the Moutiers type, which is very frequent in the Northwest of France, in particular in the lower and middle Vilaine Basin. They correspond to what was previously considered as the Bignan type, as defined by J. Briard (1965). However, this attribution required complete revision, as it grouped productions with very different morphological and ornamental characteristics, and did not take into consideration the specificities of the BMa 2 ornaments (Nordez 2015, forthcoming). Another ornament has a relatively narrow and not very thick concave stem, with a continuous decoration. These are Val-de-Reuil type characteristics, and only three other specimens are currently known, all from the valley of the Seine or Yonne. The last ornament is different from the others in that it displays a small twisted stem and an original closing system, with a tapered terminal, which fits into a shallow cavity at the other end. It is similar to the type from Saint-Germain-le-Vasson, which is only represented in the eponymous site, about a hundred kilometres from Bais.

5From a functional point of view, two of the annular ornaments from the hoard correspond to anklets (fig. 4, no. 147-148), two to bracelets (fig. 4, no. 146 and 149) and the latter two cannot be clearly classified in one or the other categories (fig. 4, no. 150-151).

Fig. 4 – Annular ornaments from the Bais hoard

Fig. 4 – Annular ornaments from the Bais hoard

146, 148-150. Moutiers type annular ornaments; 147. Saint-Germain-le-Vasson type annular ornament, Bais variant; 151. Val-de-Reuil type annular ornament

Photos Arc’Antique, GPLA, K. Colonnier; CAD M. Nordez

6The technological study of the ornaments from the hoard of Bais did not enable us to categorically identify the manufacture modes, but several arguments tend to indicate the use of the lost wax casting technique. Analyses of the elementary composition will elucidate the alloys used: if they only contain a small quantity of tin, then another chaîne opératoire involving more post-foundry work (arching of a bar by hammering the internal surface, then decoration by chiselling) could be envisaged. Such analyses would also enable us to test the presence of pairs of objects, namely for very similarly made items (no. 146 and 149).

7Casting and decoration techniques are difficult to identify with macroscopic observation alone, as the surface of the objects is generally finely regularized. Nonetheless, morphological markers (no. 151) and the presence of defects cutting into the decoration (no. 150) indicate the use of the lost wax casting technique for at least two of these specimens. For the other decorations from the hoard, the markers are much more tenuous and it is not possible to categorically identify the methods used.

8Out of the 58 Moutiers type annular ornaments studied first hand (Nordez forthcoming), more than two-thirds show evidence of the use of the lost wax casting technique, either by the presence of traces of modelling and deformation of a malleable material or casting defects intersecting the decoration. It is important to specify that this technique can involve post-foundry reworking of the surface and decoration, which can impact macroscopic or metallographic interpretation.

9The sum of these arguments tends to indicate that the lost wax casting technique was used for at least some of the ornaments from the Bais hoard, but that this assumption cannot be generalized to all the objects. A case by case study is still indispensable so as not to presume that this chaîne opératoire was systematically used in the absence of macroscopic and/or metallographic arguments (Lagarde-Cardona 2018).

The palstaves

For the definition of a Bais type

10The fourteen hoarded palstaves are whole and all belong to the palstave category. They are all long with a blade with a narrow cutting edge and a semi-circular shaped stop ridge. This palstave shape has been known for a long time but is generally classified as Norman (Verney 1989, Gabillot 2003). However, the length of the narrow or wide cutting edge is the first and main distinction between the “Breton type” and the “Norman type” (Briard and Verron 1976). This distinction still overrides other discriminating elements (Gabillot 2003), summarized in figure 13. Therefore, the classification of this type of palstave as a “Norman type” is not automatic. When they are found in association with Breton type palstaves, they are generally classified in this latter type as they are very similar to them… Must we thus continue to classify this palstave shape with a loop and a narrow blade as Norman? If the Norman type is characterized by a trapezoidal blade with a wide cutting edge, then this classification appears to be misleading. In addition, the use of this category dissimulates the fact that Breton and Norman type palstaves, in the strict sense of the word, with a lateral loop, are in fact very poorly represented.

Fig. 13 – Main discriminating elements between Breton and Norman types

Fig. 13 – Main discriminating elements between Breton and Norman types

CAD M. Mélin; after Bouet-Langlois 2009 (on the left) and Briard and Onnée 1985 (on the right)

11As a result, it is appropriate to reconsider part of the typological classification of palstaves by taking this distinction into account. We propose calling this intermediate shape the Bais type, which is characterized by the two following criteria: a streamlined blade with a narrow working edge and a semi-circular shaped stop ridge. This type consists of two branches: one with a lateral loop, the other without, and with variants depending on the decoration under the stop ridge. A first inventory of Bais type palstaves includes about 150 specimens, whose spatial distribution is illustrated in figure 19.

Fig. 19 – Distribution map of Bais type with a lateral loop palstaves, with hoards dated to the Middle Bronze Age 2 in France in the background

Fig. 19 – Distribution map of Bais type with a lateral loop palstaves, with hoards dated to the Middle Bronze Age 2 in France in the background

GIS M. Mélin

Concerning the shaping of the palstaves

12The palstaves of the Bais hoard are in diverse stages of the post-melting chaîne opératoire. Our observations concerning the reworking of the different parts of the objects, summarized in table 2, enable us to advance proposals concerning their manufacture. After removal from the mould, the first stage is removing the melting cone. Then, the surplus of metal of the casting seams is removed, before any other work. The burr can be light at this stage. After that, work on the object can be interrupted. Some of the objects from Bais were hoarded at this stage of the chaîne opératoire. Several of them may also have been hammered, on their sides and their flanges. The object can then undergo other preparation stages, in different orders, until it is totally finished: the flat parts of the blade (with possible reworking of the central decoration and accentuation of the lateral ridges), the butt, the flanges are then regularized. The sides can then undergo renewed regularization, with more careful reworking of the lateral joints until their relief has been totally removed. The last stage appears to be shaping the cutting edge, as soon as the blade has been reworked by hammering (some specimens display the marks of continuous hammering, covering the whole palstave, in particular along the cutting edge), this can be completed by sharpening by abrasion. Three palstaves out of six are completely finished and show abrasion striations, as well as hammering.

Table 2 – Morphological characteristics of the palstaves from the Bais hoard, sometimes similar to the Breton type, sometimes to the Norman type

Table 2 – Morphological characteristics of the palstaves from the Bais hoard, sometimes similar to the Breton type, sometimes to the Norman type

The numbers of the same color belong to the same mould

M. Mélin

Were the palstaves used before being deposited?

13Palstaves at different stages of the chaîne opératoire were thus associated to form the Bais hoard (table 5). None of the palstaves are in a as-cast state, all of them underwent retouching. Eight pieces were removed from the normal consumption circuit and deposited as roughouts, although they presented no defects that would indicate a mediocre quality of melting. The six remaining pieces were completely shaped. Two of them may have been intensively used and may have undergone rehammering. It was not possible to determine whether the four others were deposited in a new or used state, due to the preservation state of the cutting edge of the blade. If they were used, they must not have been used for long.

Table 5 – State of the palstaves deposited at Bais, abandoned at different stages of manufacture and use

Table 5 – State of the palstaves deposited at Bais, abandoned at different stages of manufacture and use

The numbers of the same color belong to the same mould

M. Mélin

Conclusion

14This new discovery is interesting for several reasons. First of all, the annular ornaments show both western (Moutiers type) and eastern (Val-de-Reuil type) cultural affinities. Secondly, the palstaves typology and their rather original shapes, which are not fully Breton and not fully Norman, enable us to define a new type, the Bais type. Their morphology also echoes the geographic location of the deposit, which lies between the preferential burial zones of these two types, backing up the choice of the Bais hoard as an eponymous assemblage for a new type of palstave.

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Bibliographie

Bouet-Langlois B. 2009 – Nouveaux dépôts de haches à talon en Île-de-France. Observations macroscopiques, techniques et typologiques, Revue archéologique d’Île-de-France, 2, p. 65-88.

Boulud-Gazo S., Mélin M., Nordez M. 2017 – De la fin du Bronze moyen au début du Bronze final : un état des lieux dans le Nord-Ouest à la lumière des dépôts volontaires, des productions métalliques et des contextes funéraires, in Lachenal T., Mordant C., Nicolas T., Véber C. (eds.), Le Bronze moyen et l’origine du Bronze final en Europe occidentale (xviie-xiiie siècle av. J.-C.), Strasbourg, Association pour la valorisation de l’archéologie du Grand-Est (Monographies d’archéologie du Grand-Est 1), p. 849-868.

Briard J. 1965Les dépôts bretons et l’âge du Bronze atlantique, Rennes, Travaux du laboratoire d’Anthropologie et de Préhistoire, 352 p.

Briard J., Onnée Y. 1985 – Le dépôt de moules de Pennavern à Hanvec, Finistère (Bronze moyen), in Paléométallurgie de la France Atlantique, âge du Bronze (2), Rennes, Travaux du laboratoire d’Anthropologie et de Préhistoire, p. 119-136.

Briard J., Verron G. 1976Typologie des objets de l’âge du Bronze en France. Vol. 3 : Haches (1), Paris, Société préhistorique française (Commission du Bronze), 122 p.

Gabillot M. 2003Dépôts et production métallique du Bronze moyen en France nord-occidentale, Oxford, British Archaeological Reports (BAR Int. Ser. 1174), 471 p.

Lagarde-Cardona C. 2018 – Étude métallographique sur un ensemble de bracelets de l’âge du Bronze moyen des Pays de la Loire, in Boulud-Gazo S. (dir.), Le Chalcolithique et l’âge du Bronze dans les Pays de la Loire, projet collectif de recherche : bilan d’activité 2016-2017, SRA Pays de la Loire, inédit, p. 157-176.

Nordez M. 2015 – Parures annulaires massives à décor incisé du Bronze moyen au Nord-Ouest de la France (Bretagne, Pays de la Loire, Basse-Normandie). Pour une remise en question du type de Bignan, Bulletin de la Société préhistorique française, 112(1), p. 75-116.

Nordez M. forthcoming La parure en métal de l’âge du Bronze moyen atlantique, Paris, Société préhistorique française (Mémoire n° 65), 404 p.

Verney A. 1989 – La place des haches à talon de type normand dans l’étude du Bronze moyen en France, in Mordant C. (dir.), Dynamique du Bronze moyen en Europe occidentale. Actes du 113e congrès national des Sociétés savantes, Strasbourg, 1988, Paris, Éditions du CTHS, p. 479-489.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 2 – Probable position of the hoard seemingly found along the talus, but the pit was not located
Crédits Photo DRAC Pays de la Loire/SRA
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/1700/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 844k
Titre Fig. 4 – Annular ornaments from the Bais hoard
Légende 146, 148-150. Moutiers type annular ornaments; 147. Saint-Germain-le-Vasson type annular ornament, Bais variant; 151. Val-de-Reuil type annular ornament
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/1700/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 502k
Titre Fig. 13 – Main discriminating elements between Breton and Norman types
Crédits CAD M. Mélin; after Bouet-Langlois 2009 (on the left) and Briard and Onnée 1985 (on the right)
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/1700/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 451k
Titre Fig. 19 – Distribution map of Bais type with a lateral loop palstaves, with hoards dated to the Middle Bronze Age 2 in France in the background
Crédits GIS M. Mélin
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/1700/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 515k
Titre Table 2 – Morphological characteristics of the palstaves from the Bais hoard, sometimes similar to the Breton type, sometimes to the Norman type
Légende The numbers of the same color belong to the same mould
Crédits M. Mélin
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/1700/img-5.jpeg
Fichier image/jpeg, 319k
Titre Table 5 – State of the palstaves deposited at Bais, abandoned at different stages of manufacture and use
Légende The numbers of the same color belong to the same mould
Crédits M. Mélin
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/1700/img-6.jpeg
Fichier image/jpeg, 180k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Mélin Muriel et Nordez Marilou, « Between Armorican and Norman influences: the Atlantic Middle Bronze Age 2 hoard from Bais, Mayenne (abridged version) »Gallia Préhistoire, 59 | 2019, 151-153.

Référence électronique

Mélin Muriel et Nordez Marilou, « Between Armorican and Norman influences: the Atlantic Middle Bronze Age 2 hoard from Bais, Mayenne (abridged version) »Gallia Préhistoire [En ligne], 59 | 2019, mis en ligne le 25 novembre 2019, consulté le 02 avril 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/1700; DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/galliap.1700

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Auteurs

Mélin Muriel

Service départemental d’Archéologie du Morbihan, UMR 6566 CReAAH, Équipe Archéosciences, Campus de Beaulieu, Bâtiment 25, Avenue du Général Leclerc, 35000 Rennes – muriel.melin@hotmail.fr

Nordez Marilou

UMR 5608 TRACES, Maison de la recherche, Université Toulouse Jean Jaurès, 5 allée Antonio Machado, 31000 Toulouse – marilou.nordez@gmail.com

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Droits d’auteur

Gallia Préhistoire

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