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 Socketed Axehead

In February 1930 while digging a boundary ditch to drain a bog garden at Booleybrien, in Kilmaley, barony of Islands, Dan Greene and his son Pat Joe unearthed a Late Bronze Age (1000-600 BC) hoard of 11 objects. The smaller items in the hoard had been placed inside a bronze horn, which was in turn wrapped in a goatskin. The finds were made at a mud level that contained tree stumps below the peat and above the gravel. Dan left the objects on top of a dresser in the kitchen to show them to his son Michael who was away at All Hallows Seminary in Dublin studying to be a priest. When Michael arrived home during the summer he immediately recognised the importance of the objects and set about reporting the finds to the National Museum of Ireland.

This bag-shaped, looped socketed axehead has an oval-shaped mouth, 30mm in maximum length and 23mm in maximum width. The walls average about 3mm thick. Three shallow incisions encircle the axe underneath the mouth and internally two casting ridges occur at about the mid-point of the long axis. The mould join is clearly visible along the side and it has been noted that the two pieces did not fit evenly causing a slight step on the outside. The lower portion of the axe is missing. (Eogan, 1983).

The first bronze axeheads were flat axes mounted onto a wooden haft. Socketed and looped axes such as this one represented a technological advance during the late Bronze Age. Securing the haft within a socket on the axe rather than mounting the axe onto the wooden haft provided a more secure fix and made the tool more effective for use.

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.


Clare Places: Boolybrien Townland, Kilmaley Parish
Clare Places: Kilmaley Parish
Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland 1845: Barony of Islands
The Bronze Age
Clare Archaeology

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

Bronze Socketed Axehead, 1931:234

Bronze Socketed Axehead, 1931:234

Bronze Socketed Axehead, 1931:234

Bronze Socketed Axehead, 1931:234
Click images for high resolution photographs

Photographs appear courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland

<< Riches of Clare: Power