Post-excavation analysis of the late medieval village of Netherton, 25km south-east of Glasgow, has recently been completed, after it was first uncovered by archaeologists from GUARD Archaeology during investigations that were undertaken ahead of Transport Scotland’s improvement schemes along the M8, M74, and M74.
At the site, located off the shoulder of the M74, the foundations of four medieval houses were revealed. Radiocarbon dating suggests that the settlement dates to between the 14th century and the first quarter of the 17th century, while documentary evidence shows that the village was abandoned in the 18th century when it was subsumed by the estate of the Dukes of Hamilton.
Many of the artefacts recovered from the houses were typical of medieval life, including plenty of sherds from jugs, cooking pots, and storage vessels. Metalworking debris, including evidence of iron-smelting and bloom-refining, suggests that blacksmithing was practised in the area. Finds from one of the houses, however, were more unusual. Underneath the foundation level was an eclectic assemblage of artefacts, including a whetstone of fine-grained sandstone, a spindle whorl made of cannel coal, a possible gaming piece or counter crafted from a sherd of green glaze pottery, two 17th-century coins, and an iron dagger.
It is the iron dagger that is particularly intriguing, as it does not appear to be a recognised medieval form. The object was taken to the National Museum of Scotland, where it was examined by Gemma Cruickshanks, a specialist in iron objects.
Commenting on the discovery, Gemma said: ‘Mineralised organic material on its blade suggests it was sheathed when buried, and that it was probably intact and still useable at that time. The form of this dagger is indistinguishable from Iron Age examples, indicating this simple dagger form had a very long history.’
While it is unknown whether this dagger is prehistoric or just a very well-made medieval replica, the deposition of ‘special’ objects within medieval and post-medieval buildings it well documented. It is thought that such a ritual may have been carried out in this house in order to protect its inhabitants, and it may be that this potentially prehistoric dagger was seen as a particularly powerful talisman.