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An exceptional case of a textile bag from the Atlantic 2 Late Bronze Age hoard at Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor)

Muriel Fily, Muriel Mélin, Véronique Gendrot, Axel Levillayer et Véronique Bardel
Cet article est une traduction de :
L’affaire est dans le sac : un cas exceptionnel de contenant textile au sein du dépôt du Bronze final atlantique 2 de Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor) [fr]

Résumés

Résumé. Le dépôt métallique de Hellez a été découvert à Saint-Ygeaux, dans les Côtes-d’Armor, en Bretagne. Sa fouille a permis de faire des observations in situ. Cet article propose une étude typologique détaillée ainsi que des observations tracéologiques et une étude de textile. Cinquante fragments métalliques ont été mis au jour, dont une partie toujours conservée dans une céramique bitronconique. Au fond du vase, 13 petits fragments de bronze ont été retrouvés regroupés au sein d’une petite bourse de lin fermée à l’aide d’un brin d’herbacé. La question de leur emploi en tant que poids est ici posée. Par sa composition, le dépôt est clairement attribuable au Bronze final atlantique 2 (épées à languette tripartite et lames décorées de rainures, pointes de lance à douille courte, haches à talon massives sans nervure centrale). Certaines caractéristiques typologiques permettent d’ailleurs de positionner cet ensemble à une phase récente du BFa 2, en particulier grâce à une épée presque entière. Ces observations sont confirmées par une datation absolue obtenue sur les fibres végétales de la bourse, dans l’intervalle suivant : 1056-917 cal. BC.

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Texte intégral

1The Hellez metal hoard was discovered in 2007 in the commune of Saint-Ygeaux, in the Côtes-d’Armor region (Brittany, France), where around 10 fragments of copper-alloy objects were first detected in ploughed fields. An archaeological operation, led by one of us (Fily 2012), was set up around the site of the hoard and four trenches were excavated in order to probe part of the enclosures identified by aerial surveying. Despite the fact that some of the artefacts were dispersed in reworked soil, some of them were preserved in situ, leading to the identification of the original location of the hoard. These artefacts had been deposited in a bitronconic pot, the upper part of which had been cut off during agricultural work.

2Fifty metal fragments from the Late Bronze Age were brought to light. Seven of these had been discovered in ploughed land prior to our intervention, 23 had been dispersed and were located in the immediate vicinity of the vessel, seven were still in primary position directly in the vessel, and 13 items were grouped together in a small bag made of plant materials placed at the bottom of the vessel (fig. 21).

Fig. 21 – Discovery of the small cloth bag, Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor).

Fig. 21 – Discovery of the small cloth bag, Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor).

A. State of the excavation before the discovery of the small cloth bag under a pot sherd belonging to the container; B. Small bag uncovered among the bronze objects, positioned directly at the bottom of the vessel.

Photos E. Rambault, M. Fily.

3The total mass of metal objects recovered was 2.385 g. 26% were weapons (10 fragments of swords, two spearhead fragments), 20% were tools (three palstaves, six winged axes and one of undetermined type), 14% metallurgical elements (ingots, foundry waste), 4% ornaments (two bracelets) and 36% were undetermined (miscellaneous fragments).

4Four of the 10 sword fragments belong to a single, almost complete weapon, consisting of three blade fragments and a hilt fragment, which connect directly. This is a tripartite tongue sword (fig. 7), with a similar hilt shape to Atlantic pistilliform swords, which can be dated to the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2 (i.e., between 1140 and 950 BC; Milcent 2012). This sword is clearly distinguishable from swords with a U-shaped hilt and a very bulging blade characteristic of an earlier phase, and is attributed to a late phase of the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2 on the basis of the shape of its hilt, which is V-shaped, not very wide and closed, combined with a slightly pistilliform blade. It is therefore ascribed to the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2, i.e., to the Boutigny “La Justice” horizon, according to the chronology established by P.-Y. Milcent (2012, p. 181). An element of the pommel discovered during the excavation could belong to the same sword.

Fig. 7 – Almost complete sword, Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor).

Fig. 7 – Almost complete sword, Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor).

Drawings V. Bardel.

5In addition to this almost complete sword, there are five different sword fragments, decorated with one to five double grooves. Two of these are distal spearheads fragments, one of which is probably short-socketed, consistent with the proposed dating. The palstaves found at Hellez are of particular interest as they are attributable to the massive type generally known as the Rosnoën type, a form found in both the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 1 and Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2. The Hellez axes do not bear a rib under the stopridge, which seems to be more characteristic of the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2.

6The presence of 13 small bronze elements grouped together in a bag made of plant fibres is particularly exceptional. These elements are fairly light in weight (from 0.18 to 6.41 g) and were deposited in the form of fragments, with the exception of one rivet. We suggest that they may have been reused as weights and that they could have been fragmented for this purpose. It is interesting to note that the person or persons who collected them took care to separate them from the rest of the hoard.

7The organic element containing them was discovered in situ at the bottom of the vessel, in the form of a small woven linen bag (fig. 22). It consisted of a piece of textile that could have been a 10 cm square, originally shaped like a small purse. The tips of the textile were folded over the metal pieces and then closed with a sprig of herbaceous plant. The technique used is a ligature around the upper part of the purse, crossed on either side and then passed around again, probably in the upper ligature. The weave of the material (the pattern in which the threads are interwoven) is plain weave, the simplest weaving method. Finds of this type are extremely rare in France. This piece has been radiocarbon dated.

Fig. 22 – Detail of the cloth bag Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor).

Fig. 22 – Detail of the cloth bag Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor).

A. Enlarged view of the bag in place during excavation (at the arrows, two metal elements embedded in the bag); B. X-ray of the bag showing the original layout of the metal elements; C. Photo of the bag during post-excavation study; D. Detail of the weave; E. Twisted thread; F. Linen fibre seen under the optical microscope.

A. Photo E. Rambault; B. Photo Arc’Antique Laboratory; C. Photo M. Fily; D. Photo F. Bordas; E. Photo V. Gendrot; F. Photo V. Gendrot.

8Although some of the artefacts had been dispersed by agricultural work, a few items were preserved at the bottom of the vessel. They may have been arranged according to type. For example, the three sword blade fragments were positioned vertically against the side of the vessel. Two fragments of axes were also placed side by side at the bottom, next to another part of the side, and finally two fragments of ingots were placed close together on the side opposite the swords. The textile purse was placed at the bottom of the vessel between the sword fragments and the ingots. A certain amount of care thus seems to have been taken in placing the objects in the hoard.

9As for the condition of the objects, they are all fragmentary and incomplete, apart from a few foundry pieces. As a result, each object is generally only represented by a fragment, with the exception of one sword. This sword is an exceptional element of the hoard, and more generally in hoards known in western France during this period. In effect, the fragmentation and hoarding of a complete, or almost complete item is not common in the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2. Conversely, this practice is reminiscent of the British hoards of the Wilburton horizon (at Isleham, for example).

10In light of the very good preservation of the metal surface, it was possible to carry out a technological and microwear study. The various parts of the hoarded objects are mostly from objects that were reworked after casting, or even finished. Only one bracelet is in a rough or unfinished state. The sword fragments, for example, have sharpened cutting edges, some of which show signs of use. Most of the objects were therefore in working order before they were hoarded, or had even been used.

11A number of enclosures and ditched structures were identified on the land by aerial surveying. Test pits were excavated in most of them, but only two yielded material dating from the Early Iron Age. The area adjacent to the hoard was found to be devoid of any contemporaneous structures.

12By virtue of its composition, this set of objects is clearly attributable to the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2 (swords with tripartite tongues and grooved blades, spearhead with short socket, massive palstave axes with no central rib). Certain typological characteristics, in particular the almost complete sword, place it in a recent phase of the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2. These observations are confirmed by the absolute dating of the purse plant fibres to the 1056-917 cal BC interval (94.60% probability), which is consistent with an attribution to the latter part of the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2, i.e., the Boutigny “La Justice” horizon, according to the chronology established by P.-Y. Milcent (2012, p. 181). The absolute dating of a hoard from this period is quite remarkable, as this type of deposit almost never yields directly datable elements. It thus sheds light on the chronology of the typologies of metal objects.

13The Hellez hoard completes the all-too-short list of the few metal hoards excavated within a statutory framework in France. Most of them are uncovered illegally, and are rarely observed in situ or recorded by archaeologists. Although a few finds from the Late Atlantic Bronze Age 2 have been made in recent years, assemblages from this phase are still uncommon, and the Hellez hoard should enhance our knowledge of metal assemblages from this phase.

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Bibliographie

Fily M., avec la coll. de Levillayer A. 2012 – Un dépôt métallique de la fin du Bronze final 2 atlantique, et une occupation du Premier âge du Fer, à Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes d’Armor), rapport de sondage, Rennes, SRA Bretagne, 82 p.

Milcent P.-Y. 2012 – Le temps des élites en Gaule atlantique, Chronologie des mobiliers et rythmes de constitution des dépôts métalliques dans le contexte européen (XIIIe-VIIe av J.-C.), Rennes, PUR (coll. Archéologie et Culture), 253 p.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Fig. 21 – Discovery of the small cloth bag, Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor).
Légende A. State of the excavation before the discovery of the small cloth bag under a pot sherd belonging to the container; B. Small bag uncovered among the bronze objects, positioned directly at the bottom of the vessel.
Crédits Photos E. Rambault, M. Fily.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/4253/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 149k
Titre Fig. 7 – Almost complete sword, Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor).
Crédits Drawings V. Bardel.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/4253/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 70k
Titre Fig. 22 – Detail of the cloth bag Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor).
Légende A. Enlarged view of the bag in place during excavation (at the arrows, two metal elements embedded in the bag); B. X-ray of the bag showing the original layout of the metal elements; C. Photo of the bag during post-excavation study; D. Detail of the weave; E. Twisted thread; F. Linen fibre seen under the optical microscope.
Crédits A. Photo E. Rambault; B. Photo Arc’Antique Laboratory; C. Photo M. Fily; D. Photo F. Bordas; E. Photo V. Gendrot; F. Photo V. Gendrot.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/docannexe/image/4253/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 233k
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Référence électronique

Muriel Fily, Muriel Mélin, Véronique Gendrot, Axel Levillayer et Véronique Bardel, « An exceptional case of a textile bag from the Atlantic 2 Late Bronze Age hoard at Hellez, Saint-Ygeaux (Côtes-d’Armor) »Gallia Préhistoire [En ligne], 63 | 2023, mis en ligne le 22 janvier 2024, consulté le 12 avril 2024. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/galliap/4253 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/galliap.4253

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Auteurs

Muriel Fily

Centre départemental de l’archéologie, Conseil départemental du Finistère, UMR 6566 CReAAH

Muriel Mélin

Service départemental d’archéologie, Conseil départemental du Morbihan, UMR 6566 CReAAH,

Véronique Gendrot

DRAC-SRA Bretagne

Axel Levillayer

Pôle archéologie, Conseil départemental de Loire-Atlantique, UMR 6566 CReAAH

Véronique Bardel

Dessinatrice

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