Early Bronze Age, C. 2300-2000 BC
The Coggalbeg Hoard
Throughout the Bronze Age, gold was used to make very fine, elaborated and decorative objects. These would have been worn by people of high status and most likely for special ceremonial or ritual purposes.
Usually, when these type objects are found, they can be damaged or broken and are often found as single deposits and in places associated with water, particularly bogs.
It is thought that these objects were ritually deposited as an offering to gods. Lunulae and gold discs, sometimes called sun discs are examples of such objects. Lunulae are made from hammered gold into a crescent shape. Sun discs are pairs of circular, decorated gold discs, also made from hammered gold. The decoration on sun discs often follow a cruciform pattern, suggesting that these are representations of the rays of light coming from the sun. The use of gold as a raw material is also striking and has its own resilient nature as it is a metal that doesn’t tarnish. To make these objects the metal was hammered out and incised, decorated with elaborate designs.
The Coggalbeg Hoard, which came to light in 2009, demonstrates the resilience of the people in the Bronze Age through their commitment of crafting and deposition of the object, but also the work by the Museum and the Gardaí for the retrieval of the hoard.
The hoard, made up of a lunula and a pair of matching sun discs, was discovered in 1947 as a result of turf cutting. On discovery, it was placed in the safe of a family friend at Sheehan's Pharmacy and stayed there until the pharmacy was raided in 2009. The family reported the raid to the Gardaí and described the gold objects that were in the safe. On talking to the family, it became apparent that it was likely the raiders were unaware of the gold objects, as they were placed at the very back of the safe, but also, the description of the objects alerted the Gardaí to contact the Museum.
At this point it was realised that these objects were of archaeological and national significance and the rush to find the safe ensued. A detailed investigation brought the Gardaí to a skip in Dublin, where thankfully, they found the safe from the pharmacy, and the lunula and sun discs in near perfect condition. Following further investigation by National Museum of Ireland staff , they were able to trace the finder and family who found the hoard.
The work by the family, the Gardaí and the Museum demonstrate the effort, commitment and resilience that they all undertook to retrieve this remarkable hoard. The hoard is significant, as neither the lunula, or the matching sun discs were damaged, and it is also the only time that a lunula and sun discs were found together.