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Pre-Celtic Gold Jewelry 

Later Bronze Age c. 1200 - 600 B.C.


These gold lock-rings come from the Dowris phase of the Late Bronze Age and date to circa 800 - 600  B. C.  They have a diameter of 10 cm. and length of 5 cm. with an internal width of 1.35 cm.  They were found in Gorteenreagh, County Clare in 1948 and are now on view at the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin.

These gapped conical ornaments, thought to have been used for holding hair in place, such as at the end of a plait, demonstrate the highest skill of the early Irish goldsmith.  They are constructed from four main pieces; a central split tube, two gapped conical faceplates, and a circular binding strip.  The central tube is slit vertically and the cut edges folded back; the top and bottom curve outward around a supporting wire to grip the folded edges of the faceplates.

The tubes are decorated with horizontal double rows of small punched bosses for gripping the hair.  Each faceplate is built up of threadlike wires (approximately three per millimetre) soldered together.

The edges of the slot carry straight-sided marginal bands also built up of wires soldered together.  The work is so fine that the closely spaced circles appear to have been incised on a sheet of gold, but the wires can be seen on both the inner and the outer surfaces.

On the outside excess solder has been cleaned away from the grooves between the wires; on the inside droplets of solder can still be seen.  There are indications that the wire itself was made from twisting a narrow strip cut from the edge of a thin plate.  The surrounding binding strip is a split gold tube held in position by inserting the splayed out edges of the plates between its rolled in edges.  One of the ornaments still retains a reinforcing wire within the tube.

These objects seem to have originated in Ireland, and they are most commonly found around the Shannon estuary.  Examples found in Britain are similar; some were probably of Irish manufacture.  Derived forms sometimes incorporating bronze are found in France.  About twenty examples are known of in Ireland.  Most of the examples found were constructed of individual gold wires soldered together, in others the surface is of sheet gold incised with minute parallel grooves drawn with a compass tool while the gold sheet was flat.

Further Reading:

M. J. O'Kelly - Early Ireland: An introduction to Irish PrehistoryCambridge University Press 1989. p183. Click link to buy from Amazon.com

M. Herity and G. Eogan Ireland in Prehistory London 1977.  pp. 197-201 fig. 79.8 Click link to buy from Amazon.com

A. T. Lucas - Treasures of Ireland: Irish Pagan and Early Christian Art. Dublin 1973.  pp. 39-40 pl. 4.


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