Riches of Clare Exhibition - Power collect, preserve, interpret and display the material culture relating to the history of County Clare, both in the museum building and online,
as an educational resource and a socially inclusive cultural service for the people of Clare and visiting tourists.

Bronze Horn

This bronze horn dates to the Late Bronze Age (1000-600 BC) and was found in a bog in the barony of Moyarta along with another bronze horn in two parts (1907:102\104). All that is known of the location of the findspot is that it was in a bog in the Barony of Moyarta, around 3 miles from Kilkee.

Classified as a Class 2 end blow horn, the object is slightly damaged with some pits and holes in the metal. A repair was carried out at the bell end in antiquity by running in molten metal. At the narrow end one of the spikes and the adjoining part of the wall has been cast-on. There are four cones and four holes at the narrow end. External Diameter at bell end: 10.1cms; Diameter at mouth: 4.7cms. (Eogan, 1983).

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.

These types of large bronze horns tend to be the most impressive objects of cast bronze and are the oldest musical instruments from Ireland. The Moyarta bronze horn was played by blowing through a mouthpiece at the narrower end. It was made in two parts. These horns were thought to have had a very limited range of notes and tone but in recent times experimental work using exact replicas have shown that they are very sophisticated musical instruments and playing them required considerable skill.

Horns like these may have links with the rites of a fertility cult associated with the bull and which can be seen in the early medieval tale Tain Bo Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley).


Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland 1845: Barony of Moyarta
Archives in the peat: A treasury of archaeology
The Bronze Age
Clare Archaeology

Eogan, George. 1983. The hoards of the Irish later Bronze Age. University College Dublin, Dublin.

Bronze Horn, 1907:101

Bronze Horn, 1907:101
Click images for high resolution photographs

Photographs appear courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland

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