The Derreen bucket

Derreen Bucket, Early Medieval
Derreen Bucket (after Comey 2010, 204)

The elaborate, stave-built Derreen bucket was discovered in a peat bog in Kilmurry parish, Co. Clare in 1938.  It formed part of small hoard of objects that were either hidden or lost in the bog sometime in the 8th or 9th centuries AD. The other items found included a turned wooden vessel[i], decorated with three copper alloy hoops, and two bronze bowls[ii].

The bucket is fashioned out of fifteen equally sized yew staves that are bound around a disc with three copper alloy hoops. It measures 168mm in height and is approximately 174mm wide at the rim. There is a protective cover over the lip and the handle is also made from copper alloy. All of the metal parts are decorated with inscribed motifs, with the uppermost hoop having the most elaborate design.

A medieval cooper at work (Hausbuch der Mendelschen Zwolfsbruderstiftung)
Medieval cooper at work (Hausbuch der Mendelschen Zwolfsbruderstiftung)

This vessel is a complex composite artefact, representing the output of two craft specialists, the cooper and the fine metal worker[iii]. It demonstrates their ability to turn even the seemingly most mundane object into a thing of beauty. The attractiveness of these buckets also drew the eye of Viking raiders and a number have turned up in Viking Ages graves from Norway, for example Oseberg and Hoprekstad. These buckets most likely represent stolen loot and it is tempting to suggest that the Derreen bucket was originally hidden in the bog to protect it from a similar fate.


Further reading

Comey, M. (2010), Coopers and Coopering in Viking Age Dublin, National Museum of Ireland.

[i] The turned vessel was found inside the bucket

[ii] One of the bronze bowls was not found until 1960, although it was at the exact same location as the previous finds

[iii] Comey, M. (2010), Coopers and Coopering in Viking Age Dublin, National Museum of Ireland, p.204

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