Riches of Clare Exhibition - Power

...to 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.



Chain

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.

Measuring 657mm in total length this links x 11 bronze chain consists of seven triple links, two double links of the same size, and two larger double links making twenty-nine rings altogether. The smaller rings are roughly circular and have an average external diameter of 19mm and average internal diameter of 11mm. The rings are flat and have a maximum height of about 2mm. The two pairs of double rings are of the same dimensions. It is thought that the larger rings were probably attached to the ends of the chain. One of each pair is slightly thicker than the other, all measuring 23mm in external diameter but the larger is 15mm in internal diameter and the smaller 17mm. In five places the links are joined by pieces of thin circular wire-like bronze and in one case a flat band of bronze is used. It has been noted that this is not a satisfactory method of attachment as the ends were only pushed together and not secured, suggesting that that chain was not used for any strenuous purpose. (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.

1931:221

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

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

Chain, 1931:221
Click image for high resolution photograph

Photograph appears courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland


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