Curator’s Choice – the Plough Pebble

Posted: 21st April 2021

Humber Museums Partnership - Curator’s Choice – the Plough Pebble

What I really like about these objects is that although they’re quite small and uninteresting looking, but they’ve got quite a lot of historical interest in themselves.

Today I’m going to be talking about plough pebbles, they date to the Medieval period and they were used by farmers to protect the bottom of their ploughs from wear.

They’d just be inserted into the bottom of the plough. Over time the end of the pebble that’s sticking out gets worn so you end up with a very polished and slightly curved surface. You also see very fine lines or striations running along the pebble in the direction of movement.

Most pebbles only have one set of lines or striations, we do sometimes see them with two sets of striations where they’ve fallen out of the plough and then been put back in, in a slightly different position. They used to be a bit of a mystery object as people didn’t know what they were used for. It’s thought they were maybe rubbers or burnishing’s something like that but in the 1930s a wooden plough was found in Denmark with the pebbles still in position at which point people realised what they were for.

They’re often the only evidence we have of farming practices in the Medieval Period. Because the ploughs are made of wood they often don’t survive very well. Land can fall out of use or put to other use, such as built on so its only by finding these that we know what happened during the Medieval Period.

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