Late Bronze Age Gold

Learn about Irish goldwork 1000-700 BC


Gold sleeve fasteners

The Late Bronze Age was an extremely productive period for Irish goldsmiths. A very high degree of skills produced a wide ranging variety of quality gold work that falls into two main categories.

Solid objects, cast or made from bars and ingots, such as bracelets, dress-fasteners and neck-rings, contrast with gorgets, ear-spools and discs made of sheet gold.

Gold wire was also used in a number of ways but especially to produce the hair ornaments called lock-rings.

Thin gold foil, sometimes highly decorated, was used to cover objects made of other metals such as copper, bronze or lead.

A variety of techniques were used to produce many different decorative motifs including arrangements of geometric patterns, concentric circles, domed or conical bosses and rope and herring bone patterns.

Hoard from Tooradoo, Co. Limerick

Late Bronze Age Gold Hoards in Ireland

The deposition of hoards of objects is a characteristic of the Late Bronze Age in Ireland. Several hoards of gold ornaments are known, while others contain a mixture of gold and bronze objects and sometimes also contain necklaces of amber beads.

The number of spectacular discoveries from bogs suggests that the people of the Bronze Age regarded them as special places.

A very large number of bronze and gold objects were found during turf cutting over a period of about 70 years in the Bog of Cullen in Co. Tipperary.

A large hoard of gold ornaments found in marshy ground close to a lake at Mooghaun North, Co. Clare in 1854 contained over 150 objects, weighing over 11lbs. (5kg). The hoard consisted mostly of bracelets but also included at least six gold collars and two neck-rings.

Hoard from Mooghaun North, Co. Clare

Examples of Gold Items & Usage

Among the more dramatic gold items of the Late Bronze Age are large gorgets, made mainly from sheet gold, that would have been worn on the breast.

Among the other showy items worn as objects of prestige, were large ear-spools that would have been inserted into ear lobes specially perforated and stretched for the purpose.

Gold gorget terminal

Small penannular rings, known as ring-money may in fact have been ornaments for the ears or nose.

Eleven large graduated spheres with lateral perforations from Tumna, Co. Roscommon were once strung together to form a necklace, while a variety of gold bracelets, pins, and dress-fasteners would also have formed part of the personal ornaments worn by powerful and wealthy members of Irish society during the Late Bronze Age.

Newspaper article on the Coggalbeg hoard