Bronze horn, Loughnashade, Co. Armagh

Bronze horn, Loughnashade

1st century BC

NMI W8

An early description of this find suggests that it was part of a votive deposit consisting of four bronze horns, human skulls and other bones. The artefacts were found in 1794 in a bog – the former lake of Loughnashade. The lake is situated close to the important Iron Age royal complex of the Ulster Kings at Emain Macha, or Navan Fort, in Co. Armagh.

Of the four originally found, this is the only horn which survives. It is a finely-made object, formed of riveted sheets of hammered bronze. It has four main components: two cylindrical tubes held together by a roughly biconical ring, and a decorated disc attached to the end of the horn.

The larger tube is curved and flared and closed by a seam along the concave edge. The edges are carefully aligned, and a thin strip of bronze covers the seam internally. The outer seam is sealed by means of a ridged strip of bronze fastened by a series of rivets. Three patch repairs are visible on this tube.

The edges of the second tube are not aligned but overlap and are fastened with rivets. The difference in its construction suggests that this tube was a replacement.

A magnificent decorated disc adorns the bell end of the instrument. The hammered ornament is based on the classical lotus-bud motif, and the quadrants are mirror images of each other. The decoration is hammered into the metal from behind, a technique known as repoussé. The Loughnashade Horn demonstrates the great bronzworking skills of the Iron Age craftsmen.

loughnashade horn detail

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