Bronze Age Spindle whorl


This decorated spindle whorl was discovered inside a Late Bronze Age house that was excavated by Bernice Molly at Killmelly, Co. Tipperary (Molloy 2009, 67). Used to make thread, spindle whorls played an important role in textile production. They consist of a perforated disc or spherical object that was originally attached to a spindle stick. When the spindle was spun and then dropped with a wisp of wool attached the momentum of the spinning action was maintained by the whorl (Hurley 1997, p. 674). This allowed people to efficiently twist fibres such as wool and flax into yarn (see image below).


Spindles with attached wooden spindle whorls (image source)

The Killmelly spindle whorl is fashioned out of locally sourced mud-stone and measures between 35 and 38 mm in diameter (O’Brien 2009, 347). Circular in plan and disc shaped in profile, the surface of the whorl is decorated with three inscribed concentric circles. Although crudely executed, this ornamentation probably created a pleasing effect when the spindle was spun. The central hole, through which the spindle stick would have passed, is hour-glass in profile, indicating that it was bored from both sides.


Spinning with a wooden spindle and attached spindle whorl  (image source)

Bronze Age spindle whorls are relatively rare in Ireland and only a small number have been recorded. These include examples from Ballyveelish and Lahssessargh in Co. Tipperary, Coarhamore in Co. Kerry and Ballinderry in Co. Offaly (ibid, 348).



Hurley, M. 1997 ‘Artefacts of Skeltal Material’ in Hurley, M., Scully, O. M. B. & McCutcheon S. W. J. Late Viking Age & Medieval Waterford Excavations 1986-1992, Waterford, pp. 650-720

Molloy, B. 2009 ‘Killemlly, Co. Tipperary, Late Bronze Age Occupation, Site 203.3′ in  McQuade, M., Molly, B. & Moriarty C. In the Shadow of the Galtees, Archaeological Excavations along the N8 Cashel to Mitchelstown Road Scheme, NRA, Dublin, pp. 65-68

O’Brien, R. 2009 ‘Spindle Whorls’ in  McQuade, M., Molly, B. & Moriarty C. In the Shadow of the Galtees, Archaeological Excavations along the N8 Cashel to Mitchelstown Road Scheme, NRA, Dublin, pp. 346-348

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