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Flint Mace-Head

Even thousands of years ago, people took time to create objects that had a meaning and were precious to them.

This stone mace-head reflects the care taken in planning and crafting something beautiful. It is made of hard, pale creamy-grey flint, flecked with brown patches - and is quite small, being only 79mm long and weighing 324.51 grams.

The flint is painstakingly carved on each of its six sides, with spirals and whorls, and diamond patterns. The shape of the stone and designs convey the impression of a human head - with the eyes and ears on the sides, and the mouth being the hole where the shaft would have been.

This was made by an expert craftsman during the Neolithic period, the time when farming practices were starting in Ireland. Whilst found in an Irish tomb, it is difficult to state exactly where it was made and the flint may have come from the north of Ireland or the Orkney Islands in Scotland. 

It was discovered in 1982 during archaeological excavations, led by former professor of Irish Archaeology at University College Dublin, Professor George Eogan, of the huge passage tomb mound at Knowth in the Boyne Valley, Co Meath. The mace-head was found embedded in earth, under shale placed on top of it and it is thought to have been deliberately buried in the eastern tomb of the mound. When excavated, it came out in three pieces.

This mace-head and the impressive structure in which it was discovered illustrate how society came together in the Neolithic period for rituals that helped them make sense of death and life, as well as of the world they lived in. They made objects that were probably used in ceremonies to commemorate life and death; certainly this object was found in one of the most impressive prehistoric tomb groups in the world.

The small stone mace-head is displayed in the Prehistoric Ireland exhibition at the National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology and mounted on a perspex shaft, showing how it appeared thousands of years ago. 


Flint Mace-Head is located at:
On Display

Previous artefact:

Golden Eagle

Next artefact:

The Coggalbeg Hoard

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