An Early Medieval Pulley?


A large but rather puzzling piece of ironwork has emerged from Trench 3 at Bamburgh Castle over the weekend. Hopefully you will be able to see from the photos that its a substantial iron strap curved back on itself through 180 degrees, with an iron pin passing through it. There is a gap between the straps of 20mm and the metal itself is over 6mm thick, where its curved, tapering down to near 3mm closer to the tips. It seems far too heavy to represent a piece of personal adornment, like a sword hanger, so its more likely to be a tool or fastening.


The best interpretation we have so far, suggested by Simon in our finds team, is that it is part of a pulley for lifting. If this is correct then a wooden wheel would have been present between the iron strips rotating around a pin that may be hidden amongst the corrosion product. The metal pin that you can see would potentially be a guide for a rope.


When it comes to the date of the find we are probably on slightly firmer ground, as it was recovered from a layer beneath our two 9th century timber structures. In fact it lay just outside of the east side of the northernmost of these, in a gap between some stone slabs that formed a surface. This does leave us with one further question though, did it come from the phase beneath the buildings, or was it pressed into the earlier deposit from above, having fallen onto the surface?

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