Early Bronze Age Gold

Discover the earliest Irish gold objects produced between 2400 - 1800 BC, such as discs and lunulae.


Gold lunula found in Monaghan

These Early Bronze Age objects originated from gold that was probably acquired from river gravels and worked into thin sheets by hammering.

The earliest forms were discs, sometimes found in matching pairs, each with a pair of perforations near the centres, and neck ornaments known as lunulae.

Decoration occurs on the discs in the form of concentric rows of dots, crosses, triangles and zigzags and the presence of perforations suggests that they were attached to a garment worn on special occasions.

Gold collar from Clare

Crescent Shaped Lunula

The crescent-shaped lunula, with expanded horn terminals set at right angles to the plane of the crescent, is the most characteristic gold object of the Irish Early Bronze Age.

More than 100 are known from western Europe, of which more than 80 have been found in Ireland.

Detail of Gold lunula from Tyrone

Beaker Pottery & Food Vessels

Incised or punched decoration, confined normally to the horns and the internal and external edges, usually consists of fields of simple geometric patterns.

This decoration can be compared with that found on pottery such as Beaker pottery and Bowl Food Vessels, as well as that found on certain flat copper-alloy axes and kite-shaped spearheads.

Golden split ring ornaments

Classical, Unaccomplished and Provincial Lunalae

Lunulae have been classified into three groups designated as Classical, Unaccomplished and Provincial, of which the Provincial type may be of foreign manufacture, based on Irish prototypes.

Other very early Irish gold artefacts include a pair of basket-shaped earrings that, like some of the discs, can be compared with similar finds from Beaker burials in Britain. A small number of bracelets, a gold pin, and decorated gold bands and plaques are also known.

New Techniques

At about 1200 BC new gold working techniques were developed and new styles began to appear. Ornaments made from sheet gold continued to be made, such as a pair of armlets and rings used as hair ornaments from Derrinboy, Co. Offaly.

However the use of gold bars, either plain or with hammed flanges was an important development. An array of multifaceted neck ornaments, earrings and bracelets were made by twisting thin strips of gold sheet and gold bars.