Power: The Riches of Clare
Found near Killaloe and dating to the Middle Bronze Age (1500-1000 BC) this slender, unlooped bronze palstave is heavily patinated and in places is pitted all over. The butt, partly abraded, seems originally to have been almost flat. The cutting edge is not markedly splayed and is slightly asymmetrical. The palstave is a development of the flanged axe in which an axe head is hafted using flaps or flanges of metal at the edges of the tool to grip the haft above the blade. The characteristic development of the palstave is the ledge stop or bar ledge stop which joins the flanges across the tool to form a continuous ‘u’ shape. Length: 10.6 cm; width (cutting edge): 5.75 cm; width (butt): 2.09 cm; maximum thickness: 2.48 cm.
During the Bronze Age metal objects were deliberately deposited in rivers, bogs and lakes. The act of placing these objects, either in hoards or singly, in water and watery contexts was no doubt overtly ritual and may have been linked to events such as births or deaths in the community. Although depositing the metal was a ritual act, political and economic benefits resulted. It is possible that Bronze Age social hierarchies were in part maintained by controlling the exchange of prestigious items such as metalwork. Ritually depositing metal was public display of the destruction of wealth and could be used to build personal status. At the same time, metal was taken out of circulation thereby controlling its supply and value.
Photographs appear courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland