Bronze Age spear found by a metal detectorist on a Jersey beach
Metal detector Jay Cornick on the beach with his children
One of the most spectacular Bronze Age weapons discovered in Northern Europe was found by a metal detector on a Jersey beach.
The perfectly preserved 35 cm long copper alloy spearhead was found buried at the low water mark during one of the lowest tides of the year.
It's in such good shape that finder Jay Cornick thought it had to be a modern fish spear. He put it in his pocket and didn't think about it much until he showed it to Jersey Heritage archaeologists.
The spearhead was found last August, but the find was only made public now after radio-carbon dating confirmed it was at least 3,000 years old. Remnants of the wooden handle, which was still in the socket of the spear head, also confirm that it was made from field maple, which was commonly used for hanging tools and weapons in the late Bronze Age.
No similar spearhead has been found in the Channel Islands, although a handful of similar examples have been found in France, just 14 miles from Jersey. Most of the Bronze Age spearheads discovered on the islands were much smaller and part of hoards that were deliberately broken and buried as part of a long-forgotten ritual.
A rare and complete metal spearhead was discovered in Jersey, dating back thousands of years to the Late Bronze Age
The 34-year-old electrical engineer Cornick had spotted the beach near Gorey Harbor in the east of the island many times before making the find. He said, “It was very close to the harbor wall. Down on this part of the beach we usually find lots of musket balls and old bullets, and that's what it sounded like. It was almost the first signal I got. I wasn't sure if to dig it, but I did anyway.
“It was a good 15 to 18 inches deep. It was at a 45 degree angle and when I dug it up I saw the end and just pulled it out. It came out with a sucking sound. It was deep enough in the black sand of clay eyes that doesn't move with the tide that it could have been there since walking in. "
He said, "When I found the spear I didn't think it was that important or that old. My first thought when I dug it up was that it was a modern fish spear and it was probably less than 100 years old, so it was just tossed it in my pocket until I got back to the car. Then I checked it again and thought it might be a bit old. "
After sharing a photo with Neil Mahrer, Jersey Heritage's conservation specialist, Mr Cornick wrapped the still damp spearhead in a garbage bag and went to the museum in St. Helier, where it was on display this week. Mr. Mahrer described the find as "unbelievable".
Mr Cornick says he has only had it for three days and does not know if he will receive a "finder's fee".
Carbon dating carried out by the York Archaeological Trust confirmed that the wooden handle was between 1207 B.C. BC and 1004 BC BC originates.
Olga Finch, Curator of Archeology at Jersey Heritage said, “The spearhead is a really exciting find for Jersey - it's unique and very rare for its size and the fact that it's intact.
"This spearhead is completely different from anything else we have."
The style of the spear head is known as Tréboul after a location in Brittany, but this example is so large and delicate that Mr Mahrer says it is possible that it was made for ceremonial purposes. It is believed that it survived in such good condition because it was protected from the air by the black sand.
Somehow it had survived not only the construction of the port of Gorey and the medieval castle that dominates the headland, but three millennia of tides and winter storms.
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