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A Bronze Age Axe and Leather Sheath from Kildare

The Brockagh axe

The Brockagh axe

The Brockagh axe is one of my favourite artefacts in the National Museum of Ireland. It dates from the Middle Bronze Age and was discovered deep within a peat bog at Brockagh, Co. Kildare. What is very unusual about the axe is the fact that it was found within a small leather pouch that appears to have been specifically made to hold the artefact. The pouch is fashioned from a single piece of cow hide and tapers to reflect the shape of the blade. The axe itself is made from cast bronze and its surface is profusely ornamented on both sides with vertical lines of herringbone design.

Why exactly this highly decorated axe was kept inside a leather sheath remains uncertain. It is possible that it was simply a means of transporting the axe prior to hafting, or it may indicate that the artefact was used as a hand tool. However, it could also imply that the axe was never intended as a utilitarian cutting implement and was instead some form of status symbol. If this was the case then this beautiful object may only have only been removed from its pouch on certain occasions for display purposes.

Whatever the original function of the axe, today it can be viewed at the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

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2 Responses to A Bronze Age Axe and Leather Sheath from Kildare

  1. Daniel Williams July 11, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

    I have no expertise in these matters, but this implement appears to be a scraper for removing hair from hides or skins of animals and may not be an axe head at all. I would be interested in learning what the final determination is.

  2. Liam Nolan July 17, 2015 at 9:52 am #

    A good observation. Its decorative and personalised condition suggests a much valued implement now having a secondary use. Hoards of these axe heads are not too uncommon as they were eventually discarded as the age of metalworking developed and iron implements took over. But the working edge on this scraper(?) would have been easy enough to maintain. A beautiful item that may have been part of a burial in the long distant past. My grandfather William Nolan of Blackditch found two stone polished axes in Nurney Bog in 1936 and was rewarded with £1.00 for handing over the second one.Always satisfying to see these iconic items resurface, Liam

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