Alnham : Bronze Age (c. 2000 BC – 700 BC)
The Bronze Age is markedly better represented in the Alnham study area. The bronze spearhead found at High Bleakhope (NT 920150) is perhaps of similar type to the spearhead with lunate openings in the blade from the Whittingham hoard (Cowen 1935: 28, Plate II). Bronze weapons such as this are extremely rare, and are likely to have been very valuable, perhaps the exclusive preserve of an elite social class (Higham 1986, 104).
Though the circumstances and exact provenance of this find are unknown, High Bleakhope occupies an elevated and remote position. This may indicate that the spear may have been deliberately deposited, perhaps as an offering to a deity, rather than accidentally lost. As in the preceding Neolithic, religion and ritual was extremely important in Bronze Age society, and this is reflected in the complex burial traditions of the period.
Cairns are usually attributed to the Bronze Age, though many examples are not precisely dated, and they are known to have existed in the Neolithic period. The round cairn discovered by aerial photography at Cobden Sike (NT 976142) has been badly robbed, but was originally 35m in diameter, and may have been constructed for burial of an individual of considerable status. The large, outer cairn seems to have replaced a smaller (11m diameter) cairn of earlier origin. Another cairn, in much better state of preservation, is recorded near Ewartly (NT 963127), and is also likely to have contained a burial.
Not all cairns of this period contained burials. Cairns occur in considerable numbers as a result of field clearance in association with early agricultural remains. These are much more difficult to date, though, on the basis of their association with Bronze Age settlements or burial cairns, a Bronze Age date can sometimes be established (Higham 1986, 92). The cairnfield at Hazeltonrig Hill (NT 963116) may be associated with the unenclosed settlement nearby (NT 961116).
The unenclosed settlement at Hazeltonrig Hill is one of several such settlements of possible Bronze Age date known from within Alnham Township. South-west of White Gate, (NT 977122), an unenclosed settlement was excavated by the University of Newcastle in 1962-3, revealing pits containing burnt wood and bone.
Although firmly assigned to the Bronze Age, in the absence of radiocarbon dates this chronology seems insecure, particularly as some of the pottery may be Romano-British. To the south west of Linhope (NT 957155), four unenclosed, stone-founded houses are all that remains of a further prehistoric, though not certainly Bronze Age, settlement.
Settlements of this kind are common in the Cheviots throughout the Bronze and Iron Ages, and were traditionally distinguished on the basis of type, particularly the presence or absence of an enclosure. However, recent research has suggested that enclosures themselves may have had little chronological significance (Welfare 2002, 72).
As most of the difficulties with these earlier models are attributable to lack of excavated, well-dated examples, the Bronze Age date often attributed to unenclosed sites such as these should be treated with caution.