Bronze age axe head found on Anglesey field goes on show

A rare Bronze Age axe head which was found in an Anglesey field by a metal detectorist has gone on show in Llangefni.

Oriel Môn recently acquired the important prehistoric copper-alloy cast tool which was still razor sharp after thousands of years.

It was found by 53-year-old Paul Rowlands, who made the amazing discovery on land near Llanfaethlu.

Paul Rowlands who found the axe head on Anglesey

Paul Rowlands who found the axe head on Anglesey

A local finds liaison officer confirmed it was a flanged axe dating to the Arreton metalworking tradition at the end of the Early Bronze Age, circa 1800-1500 BC.

Paul, who is Holyhead born and bred, but works as an Able Seaman on the Thames in London, had been out metal detecting using an Equinox machine with friend Mathew Thomas.

Ian Jones Oriel Môn, Building and Collections Manager with the axe head now on display

Ian Jones Oriel Môn, Building and Collections Manager with the axe head now on display

“It was just before the first lockdown, we had been in the field for about two hours and we hadn’t found much just the odd button,” he said.

“I was just going to give up, go for a cup of tea, and the signal rang out a 26 on my machine, which is not usually anything good.

“But I thought, ‘well. I’ll dig it,’ I’d gone down about eight inches, and then spotted it.

“I knew what it was immediately. It was fantastic to find it in such good condition and still so sharp.

“It was amazing to think about who held it last,  it had laid there for thousands of years.

“I rang a finds liaison officer and took it to archaeologists (gwynedd Archaeological Trust) in Bangor, they did carbon dating said it was 1900BC.

“I knew it was special, and they said it was rare, but because of lock down it just sat in a box. Now I’m pleased it is at the Oriel Môn so every one can see it.”

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Paul’s previous oldest finds include hammered coins including a Henry the VIII  from 1523 and a 17th- century William III shilling.

“I doubt I shall ever beat it, or finding anything older than the axe head!” he added.

The axe head on display at Oriel Môn, Llangefni (Pictures Dale Spridgeon)

The axe head on display at Oriel Môn, Llangefni (Pictures Dale Spridgeon)

Ian Jones Collections and Buildings Manager at Oriel Môn said they were “delighted” at the acquisition.

“The prehistoric bronze axe head is in remarkable condition with a still sharp working edge.

“It’s a rare discovery, only a few of its type have ever been found in north Wales.

“We are most grateful to Paul for depositing the axe in Oriel Mon’s museum collection.”

The axe head measures some 12cm in length, and has shallow hammered flanges along its sides – a feature which helped it fit into a wooden handle.

Llanfaethlu Bronze Age axe (Picture: courtesy Oriel M?

Llanfaethlu Bronze Age axe (Picture: courtesy Oriel M?

Binding would then be used to secure it in place.

According to Ian, the advent of the Bronze Age (around 2500 to 800 B.C.), saw “a speeding up” of technological development.

The manufacture of tools and weapons increased; and specialised equipment

emerged for domestic use, woodworking and metalworking.

“Axes were used mainly for the clearance of land for farming and for shaping wood, although they could also be used for use in ceremonial practices and battle.” He said.

The axe head can be seen as part of a display of locally found prehistoric axes, in conjunction with the Anglesey Antiquarian Society,  in the History Gallery at Oriel Môn.

The Oriel is open Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm, admission is free. For further information on the centre, contact 01248 724444 or visit

www.orielmon.org / oriel@ynysmon.llyw.cymru

North Wales Chronicle | Anglesey