Excavations at Trecastell, Powys, south Wales, in 2007 yielded a copper halberd complete with its haft-grip. This has major implications for the mode of hafting halberds, but the discovery has also prompted a reconsideration of insular halberds in their north-west European context. Understanding the relationships between different types of halberd and different regional groups continues to be hampered by the dearth of good dating evidence, but the creation of better classifications for British and Irish weapons and new radiocarbon dates on two examples, one being Trecastell, have allowed a new developmental scheme to be advanced.
The emergence of metal-headed halberds is considered more generally. While it is acknowledged that halberd-like implements pre-existed in other materials in some parts of Europe, it is argued that the appearance of metal-headed halberds depended on the transmission of a particular set of metallurgical and related skills. A new model for the vigorous uptake of halberds on a regional basis helps explain the patchiness and anachronism of halberd hotspots.
The Trecastell halberd adds to one of the significant concentrations of the weapon type in Britain and prompts a more general review of the earliest metalwork from Wales and the Marches. For the Chalcolithic, halberds are instrumental in identifying a major contrast in depositional behaviour; this contrast dissolves at the beginning of the Early Bronze Age when a ‘new deposition ground’ is established. The former is attributed to the existence of a regional group across much of the region for whom the halberd served as a cultural icon, while the latter may relate to the demise of this enshrined value for the halberd.