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16 October 2014
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Bronze Age Hoard

Two bowls, a sword and its scabbard - possible possessions of an Armagh warrior, now recovered and giving us an insight into the lives of our ancestors.


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Exciting new discovery made

Digging a hole, ploughing a field, metal detecting - when we are lucky enough to uncover some relic from the dim and distant past it gives us a window through which we can glimpse into the lives of those who lived in Northern Ireland many years ago. So it is exciting to hear that four miles west of Armagh a collection of objects, believed to date from the Bronze Age, has been unearthed in an area of archaeological importance.

The objects discovered are a bronze sword, 61 cm long, its wooden scabbard and two small bronze bowls. Experts say that the sword is typical of the Irish late Bronze Age, but the two bowls were made in central Europe, probably in Czechoslovakia, around 1000 BC. Apparently, the bowls enable them to date the sword and the hoard more closely than would have hitherto been possible.

So how did the bowls come to be in Ireland? They are unique even for the British Isles. It is possible that they were given as gifts between neighbouring peoples and so made their journey westwards, eventually ending up in the possession of a warrior in Armagh. The burial of these objects in an Armagh bog appears to have been a ritual act, possibly to appease whatever god they believed could alleviate the deteriorating climate.

Bronze Age hoard from near Armagh
Bronze Age hoard from near Armagh.
Small bronze bowl, bronze sword and wooden scabbard.
The objects are shown in their original relative positions.

Neglected for so long, needless to say the objects are in need of a bit of tender loving care - one of the bowls is in numerous tiny fragments. The hoard is therefore undergoing conservation at present and the aim is for these unique artefacts to eventually go on display.

Listen - Michael McNamee hears about this Bronze Age discovery from the finder, Sean McGirr, and Richard Warner of the Ulster Museum (March 2004).

(Recovery, preservation and study of the hoard is a joint project by the finder, the Ulster Museum, the Environment and Heritage Service and Queen's University. The Ulster Museum is the hoard's temporary home.)

Have you ever uncovered any ancient objects? How did you come across them? What did you discover? Were you able to find out the history behind them? Share your stories here on 'Your Place and Mine' by filling in the form below.

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