Bronze Cauldron

The Bronze Age

c.2500 - 500 B.C.


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can be seen at the National Museum in Ireland.

After the Neolithic Age people started learning the art of metallurgy, how to mine and process raw ores and craft them into finished pieces.  Gold, silver and copper were the first metals worked, then alloys such as the combination of copper and tin were discovered and the resulting bronze became a prized metal used for weapons and practical objects.

  Another name for the Bronze age people especially in Europe was 'the Beaker people' named after their highly decorated drinking vessels one example from Scotland was found to have traces of an alcoholic beverage akin to mead in it.  Many people believe the designs for the pottery came from the designs used by woodworkers and wood-turners and also from basketware and rope-work.

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Cist Graves started to be used during the Bronze Age, bodies were no longer cremated as in previous times.

Copper was used in the earliest times, there was a small hoard of copper objects found at Knocknagur, near Tuam, Co. Galway it comprised of three copper awls a small copper dagger and three copper axes.  It seems that in these times 'status symbols' became important to show wealth, trade became important to acquire unusual objects of prestige.  Many of the scattered objects relating to this time period were probably acquired through trade, such as the beaker vessels found in some of the single cist graves now being used.  


Also it would seem that offerings to the gods became popular and depositing valuables in lakes became widespread, hence many of the finds in bogs and old lake-beds.  Depositing many 'same type' objects such as hoards of axe-heads is common during the Bronze age.

 In Ireland there was also a lot of gold in use, and the golden objects that have come down to us from this time are unparalleled in their mastery.  There were native sources of gold in Ireland, as well as copper and tin.  Gold occurs in around 130 regions in Ireland.  The Delphi valley and Croaghpatrick in County Mayo contain gold and Curraghinalt in County Tyrone, it has been estimated that about 300,000 ounces of gold could exist in the bedrock.  The Bronze Age people probably got most of their gold by panning the rivers and streams that flowed from the gold bearing mountains.  Although as they were mining for copper it would stand to reason that they would also mine for gold.

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Gold répoussé armlets


It is not hard to see how metal smiths became regarded with a certain awe and in later times there are many folktales about how the metalworkers learned their skills from the Sidhe.

Sources: Irish Archaeology Illustrated edited by Michael Ryan pub. Dublin 1994

Harbison, Peter - Pre-christian Ireland, from the first settlers to the Early Celts, pub. Thames&Hudson from


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