A Pair of Late Bronze Age Gold Bracelets from Co. Offaly

Derrinboy Late Bronze Age gold armlets
Derrinboy gold armlets

The Derrinboy armlets are a pair of magnificent gold bracelets that were found deep within a County Offaly bog in 1959. Dating from the Late Bronze Age, these precious artefacts formed part of a small hoard of objects that were discovered by Mr. Patrick McGovern as he was digging turf. The hoard, which was located at a depth of c. 4 metres below the bog surface, consisted of two gold armlets, two gold rings and an unusual necklace, fashioned out of gold and leather. Surrounded by a stout piece of copper wire, these gold artefacts had lain hidden in the peaty depths for over 3,000 years.

The most spectacular pieces were undoubtedly the gold armlets. These were made from sheet gold that had been beautifully decorated in repoussé and punched motifs. This work was expertly executed and the ornamentation was arranged in linear bands of alternating punched and plain ridges. For strength, the thin edges of the sheet were folded over to form a raised border, and finally the gold was curled into a cylindrical shape. The resultant armlets were broadly similar in size, with their diameters varying between 5 cm and 6 cm across and their weights between 16 g and 10 g.

These distinctive Irish bracelets are now thought to be of southern British inspiration. Why they were buried in a Midlands bog, however, remains a mystery, although it is possible that they represent votive offerings.

References

Raftery, J. 1961. ‘The Derrinboy hoard, Co. Offaly’, in The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland Vol. 91, No. 1. pp. 55-58

Wallace, P.F. 2000. A guide to the National Museum of Ireland, Town House & Country House, Dublin. p. 18.

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