Emerald Isle

Iron Age Bronze Armlet

Ancient treasures and wonders of Ireland, mysterious gems and gold, lost creatures and Irish wonders

Intricate work from a dark time

This beautiful iron age armlet, usually worn on the upper arm around the bicep, dates from the end of the Irish iron age, a time of heroes and mystery. It is made of yellow bronze and was originally cast around the second century AD. It is about 10cm across, or three inches.

It was discovered where the Deel and Boyne rivers meet in Balymahon, County Meath, in the mid 19th century. It may have been cast into this boundary-place as a sacrifice, or may have been lost through mischance or conflict. The armlet has whirling triskeles with holes in them in the shape of birds, and once had a third coil which was lost, although an amateur attempt was made to repair it with rivets, showing it had great value, although its owner didn't have the means to pay for a proper repair.

This artifact is particularly curious since it comes from a period known as the "Irish dark ages", when the Roman empire held sway over southern Britain. During this time there is a break in records and signs of a marked decline in the population of Ireland, with both farms and settlements returning to forest and peat bog.

As Donnchadh Ó Corráin noted: "the impact of human activity upon the flora around the bogs from which the pollen came was less between c. 200 BC and c. AD 300 than either before or after."

Who knows what wonders and terrors were experienced by the last wearer of this beautiful item, how they struggled, and how, in the end, they came to lose their prized armlet?

The location of its finding is marked on the map below!


Ancient Treasures of Ireland

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