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.


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.

Classifield as belonging to Group B of MacWhite and Class 2 end blow of Coles, this bronze horn appears to have been cast in one piece but is now broken across at the mid-point. The circular mouth is 42mm in external diameter and 37mm in internal diameter. Four spikes are evenly placed around the outside of the horn beneath the mouth opening and these average 18mm in height and 10mm in diameter at the base. The walls widen slightly towards the circular bell end where there is a slight internal ridge. This end has an external diameter of 100mm and internal diameter of 92mm. A small perforation immediately below the lip was filled in in antiquity. Four spikes also occur around the bell end on the outside and these average 19mm in height and 12mm in diameter at the base. (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. 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).


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.

Trumpet, 1931:220

Trumpet, 1931:220

Trumpet, 1931:220

Trumpet, 1931:220

Trumpet, 1931:220
Click images for high resolution photographs

Photographs appear courtesy of the National Museum of Ireland

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