Date of Award

December 2015

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Bettina Arnold

Committee Members

Jean Hudson, Laura Villamil


Bronze Age Europe, Experimental Archaeology, Hoards, Sickles, Use-Wear


Prehistoric hoards—containing items such as precious metals, tools, ornaments, and weapons—have long fascinated archaeologists and the general public alike. The practice of intentional wealth deposition in hoards was particularly prolific during the European Bronze Age; however, the motivations behind this practice remain unclear. Comparisons of the contents of hoards through space and time can yield valuable data regarding the purpose and process of deposition, but one of the most common items found in Bronze Age hoards—bronze sickles—remains understudied. In order to generate a standardized approach to the comparative analysis of prehistoric sickles in a variety of contexts, I propose a protocol for measuring indications of use-wear, based on the results of experimental trials. Four bronze sickles were cast, hafted, and used in harvesting vegetation. After two harvesting trials, microscopic images were taken of the back and front of each cutting edge; use-wear maps were created identifying bluntness, abrasion, striations, and blade deformation. Similar use-wear maps were created for seven prehistoric bronze sickles in the collections of the Field Museum of Natural History, the Logan Museum of Anthropology, and the Milwaukee Public Museum. The data generated by comparing wear patterns on the experimental sickles with the working edges of the prehistoric sickles suggest that indications of use can be identified through specific patterns of abrasion and bluntness along a sickle’s cutting edge. These sickle-specific use-wear patterns and the process of producing and using the experimental sickles are described in detail to serve as a foundation for further systematic analysis of prehistoric bronze sickles and their depositional contexts.