The Bronze Age in Ireland Part 8

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27. Two trumpets probably found together, from Trinity College, Dublin, collection.

28. A socketed bronze celt and gold ring-money found together near Belfast.[45]

[45] Archaeologia, vol. lxi, p. 153.

29. Four gold lunulae, found together at Dunfierth, Carbury, County Kildare.[46]

[46] "Wilde's Catalogue of Gold Antiquities," p. 18.

30. A large spear-head, a round bronze shield, with a central boss for the hand, and two circles of smaller bosses, found in a mound or rath, at Athenry, County Galway.[47]

[47] Horae Ferales. pl. xi, fig. 1.

With the exception of Nos. 4, 5, 27, and 30, the above-mentioned finds are preserved in the Royal Irish Academy's collection, in the National Museum, Dublin.



Numerous trumpets of cast bronze have been found in Ireland, both in the south and the north. They are rare in Britain. Two or more trumpets have often been found together; eight were found at Dungannon, County Tyrone, in 1713, and thirteen or fourteen near Cork in 1750. The Irish trumpets may be divided into three types--(1) in the shape of a horn, open at both ends, having the mouth-piece and trumpet cast in one piece; (2) of similar shape, but closed at the narrow end, with an aperture for the mouth at the side near the closed end; (3) also horn-shaped, but with a long straight tube attached to the narrow end of the carved portion, the upper end of the tube having four rivet-holes, to which another tube or mouth-piece may have been fixed. There are references in cla.s.sical authorities to the trumpets used by the Celts. Polybius, describing the defeat of the Celts by the Romans at the battle of Telemon, B.C. 225, speaks of the innumerable horns and trumpets of the Celts (Gaesatae, Insubres, Taurisci, and Boii).

Dr. F. Behn, of the Mainz Museum, has recently written an account of the music in the Roman army, in which he has brought together much information about the early bronze trumpets; and he includes a short description of the Irish type.[48] The Irish trumpets, which are furnished with the straight tubular piece, much resemble the Roman lituus; and, as a whole, the Irish type is very closely allied to the lituus and carnyx, the difference between the lituus and carnyx being that the expanded end of the carnyx takes the form of some fantastic animal's head. Trumpets have been found in the Dowris h.o.a.rd, with socketed spear-heads, and other objects of the late Bronze Age, and they must be dated to that period; on this account the Etruscan lituus can hardly have been derived from Irish trumpets; so that it is probable that the Irish trumpets, like those of Gaul, were derived from the south.

[48] Die Musik im romischen Heere "Mainzer Zeitschrift," 1912, p. 36.

[Ill.u.s.tration: PLATE X. Bronze Trumpets. _p. 88._]

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 75.--Mould for casting a sickle, found at Killymeddy, Co. Antrim.]


[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 76.--Bronze sickles.]

Socketed bronze sickles have been found fairly frequently in different parts of Ireland. Those in the National Collection have generally been referred to the late Bronze Age. These sickles are all very small, and it has been thought that the Irish, like the Gauls, cut only the ear of the corn, and burnt the stalk. A recent find of moulds in County Antrim contained a mould for casting a sickle without a socket like the Continental examples, and shows that this type was also known in Ireland in the later Bronze Age (fig. 75). The bronze sickles have an important bearing on the question of agriculture in Ireland. An opinion has recently been expressed that corn was not introduced into England until the Roman invasion, and was introduced into Ireland even later than this.[49] However, there are instances of ears of corn being found within the walls of food-vessels of early Bronze Age date in Scotland; and it is probable that corn was also grown in Ireland during the Bronze Age. There is evidence that the ox was domesticated during this period. The excellence of the metal-casting and the high degree of skill shown in casting implements and weapons during the Bronze Age lead us to believe that the civilization, and with the civilization the art of agriculture and material comfort, had reached a fairly high level.

[49] Proc. Royal Irish Academy, vol. x.x.xi (Clare Island Survey, Part 5).

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 77.--Bronze sickles.]


[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 78.--Bronze disk.]

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 79.--Bronze b.u.t.ton.]

In the late period of the Irish Bronze Age, bronze pins with disk-shaped heads having a conical projection in the centre are fairly common. The disk-heads in many instances are ornamented with concentric circles and other simple kinds of decoration. They are bent at right angles to the pin, though in some cases the pin comes straight from the head. The pins are very long, some measuring as much as 12 inches. In the very interesting find at Armoy, County Antrim (p.

81), it will be remembered that one of these pins was found together with a woollen garment, and there is no doubt they were used to fasten the dress. The fact of a razor being one of the objects of this find indicates that the pins were used by men, though no doubt they may also have been worn by women. The use of such long pins seems to point to the wearing of some kind of cloak-like garment probably fastened in the front; and the ornamental heads of the pins indicate that they were worn in a conspicuous place.

As well as the pins a few bronze b.u.t.tons have been found consisting of disks with the same conical projection, but having the pin replaced by a small bar at the back. One remarkable example in the National Collection measures 4-3/4 inches in diameter (fig. 78). This object was probably either attached to a leathern belt or possibly may have been a portion of a horse's furniture. The smaller b.u.t.tons have been found on the Continent, and are fairly numerous in the Continental lake-dwellings or finds of the late Bronze Age.

One is tempted to see in the Irish examples a derivation of the b.u.t.ton from the pin.



[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 80.--Incense cup.]

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 81.--Cinerary urn.]

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 82.--Food-vessel with cover, Danesfort, Co. Kilkenny.]

In Ireland the pottery of the Bronze Age is princ.i.p.ally represented by the type of vessel known as a food-vessel. We may commence with these, as there has only been one undoubted find of beakers made: this consisted of the remains of three vessels found together at Moytura, County Sligo, and preserved in the National Collection. A beaker is stated to have been found at Mount Stewart, County Cavan; but the vessel is not extant, and the evidence as to its discovery is not perfectly satisfactory. The Irish food-vessel is derived directly from the round-bottomed vessel of Neolithic times. Some of these round-bottomed bowls have been found with Neolithic remains at Portstewart, County Down, and there is one in the National Collection described as found in a cavern a.s.sociated with stone implements beside the moat of Dunagore, near the town of Antrim. The development from the Neolithic bowl can be clearly traced in the Irish series. The earliest are flat, almost saucer-shaped bowls, which are generally covered all over with ornament, and often have a cruciform pattern on the base which has been thought to indicate that the vessels were turned mouth downwards when not in use.[50]

[50] Abercromby, "Bronze-Age Pottery," vol. i, p. 121.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 83.--Cinerary urn, Carballybeg, Co. Waterford.]

These bowls have a very pleasing effect; and, as Dr. Abercromby says: "The small native women, sometimes under five feet high, who made these little vessels, had certainly a fine sense of form and a delicate perception of the beauty of curved forms. The care and precision with which the ornament was effected, and the richness of the effect produced by simple means, may excite our admiration."[51]

[51] Abercromby, _op. cit._, p. 121.

[Ill.u.s.tration: PLATE XI. Food-vessels in the order of their development. _p. 96._]

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 84.--Model of cinerary urn, showing its position in cist over burnt bones and small vessel, Greenhills, Co. Dublin.]

In the next stage a slight indentation about the centre of the vessel can be noticed, the ornament being arranged on either side above and below this; next two small ridges develop out of this, which are at first close together, but are afterwards placed further apart, and in the later stages the vessel becomes considerably higher, the base a.s.suming the form of a cone, and the upper portion having an everted lip. Some of these latter vessels have a number of small ribs encircling them. Plate XI shows a series of food-vessels placed in the order of their evolution. The decoration can be well seen. It consists for the most part of chevron, herring-bone, and other linear ornament, but wavy lines can be seen in some examples. In some rare cases the food-vessels were provided with lids (fig. 82). All of these vessels were made by hand; and though the baking of the pottery varies, it was evidently done over a fire.

[Ill.u.s.tration: Fig. 85.--Cinerary urn, Cookstown, Co. Tyrone.]

The food-vessels, which are found both with unburnt and burnt interments, continued in use during the greater part of the Bronze Age, and the name food-vessel is hardly appropriate in Ireland, as in many cases these vessels have been found containing cremated bones, having apparently served the purpose of cinerary urns.

The so-called cinerary urns are large vessels which have been usually discovered containing human bones; they have often been found inverted over cremated remains. They can be conveniently divided into several types, of which the type with the overhanging rim may be mentioned first. In this type the vessel consists of two portions, a lower flower-pot-like cone, on which is placed a larger truncated cone, which forms the overhanging rim. This type is widely distributed in England, and in Ireland has been found in the Counties of Antrim, Down, and Tyrone. The cordoned or hooped type is developed from the preceding type by replacing the overhanging rim by a moulding, both types being contemporary. In the encrusted type the urn, which is of the flower-pot shape, is decorated with strips of clay in the form of chevrons and bosses, the ornamentation a.s.suming a rope-like form. Urns of this type have been found at Greenhills, Tallaght, County Dublin; Gortnain, Broomhedge, County Antrim; Tullyweggin, Cookstown, County Tyrone; Closkett, Drumgooland, and Glanville, Newry, County Down.

Very small vessels, of usually about 2 to 2-1/2 inches in height, are often found in interments a.s.sociated with the large cinerary urns, and occasionally, when the latter are inverted, are found inside them. The exact use of these small vessels, which are called "incense-cups" or "pygmy-cups," is a matter of speculation; several theories have been advanced to explain the purpose of placing them in graves, but none of them are altogether satisfactory.[52]

[52] See Abercromby, _op. cit._, vol. ii, p. 24, who discusses these small vessels at length.

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The Bronze Age in Ireland Part 8 summary

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