On October 22nd 2012, I published a post entitled Pliny’s Golden Sickle, in reference to the curious blade with which the Druids were said to cut mistletoe. At the very start of the post, I wrote “I’m not aware that any such artefact has ever been discovered…” but I had a real shock earlier this evening (Tuesday) when I was looking through my copy of the 1995 English Heritage publication Stonehenge in its landscape, in search of details of Iron Age discoveries made at the monument over the years by archaeologists.
On page 337, under the heading Iron Age and later, there are details of Roman pottery and other finds made at Stonehenge. The text makes clear that the material surviving from early excavations at the monument wasn’t concentrated in any part of the site, with the exception of “one fairly coherent group of material….recovered by Hawley in 1920 immediately south of Stone 7 (CI).” We’re then presented with the following information:
“The shallow area along the south side of the frame contained a number of objects of the Romano-British period, and produced 92 sherds of that date, an iron awl, a small long hammer-head of iron resembling those used by jewellers or clockmakers at the present day, a turned bronze ring, part of a shale bangle, and part of an iron knife and of a sickle.” (1921, 29).
The main body of text goes on to tell us that only the ring and the shale bracelet have been identified in the collection.
As far as I’m aware – and as always, I’m open to being corrected here – only two objects or artefacts have ever been linked with the ancient Druids. One of these is the Coligny calendar, while this link from almost exactly 5 years ago in Der Spiegel provides us with evidence of a possible Druid grave 2.8 miles south-west of present day Colchester.
Fascinating though these various finds are, the one artefact most closely associated with the Druids was the sickle – pure gold or otherwise – so I was astonished to learn that part of a sickle had been unearthed and recorded by an archaeologist, and at Stonehenge of all places. Given the noted aversion that so many in the archaeological community have to the idea that the Iron Age Druids had anything whatsoever to do with Stonehenge, it seems absolutely bizarre that there should be credible archaeological evidence that suggests otherwise.
This was part of a sickle and not the whole instrument, but the word sickle is unmistakably recorded and a possible link to the Druids must have occurred to Hawley. If Professor Atkinson ever read of this discovery, or saw it for himself, then it is certain that he would have made the same connection, regardless of whether or not it was made of gold, but as I’ve noted on many occasions, the learned professor wasn’t noted for his meticulous record-keeping as far as Stonehenge was concerned.
This part of a sickle was found with other objects, most notably the Romano-British potsherds. It’s possible that it was a part of some mediaeval or later instrument that was somehow accidentally buried in amongst the earlier finds, but on balance of probability, I’d say there is a good chance that it was contemporary with them. It may have had nothing whatsoever to do with the ancient British Druids, but given the huge amount of evidence in favour of these people frequenting and using Stonehenge for their own purposes, and given that the sickle is the one instrument most closely associated with this ancient priesthood, then I’d say there was at least a fighting chance that in this case, the Druids and this part of a sickle were intimately linked.
From my understanding of the text in SIIL, no one has a clue where this object now is. Even if it were recovered, then it would have to be dated and the scientific community would have to find evidence that it had once been covered in gold, if anyone were to make a convincing case for it once having been used by the Druids, although even then there would be those who expressed their doubts.
Given that the ‘alleged’ Druid link with Stonehenge is such a contentious issue, then it surely stands to reason that all right-thinking and reasonable people would like to see some headway made on this matter, one way or another. With this in mind, the obvious place to go searching for this truly fascinating ‘part of a sickle’ is in Hawley’s Graves, while there’s every chance that many other wonders from Stonehenge’s past await rediscovery there as well.