The Tamlaght, Co. Armagh hoard opens a window into Ireland’s network of European-wide trade relations in the Late Bronze Age.
The bowl from Tamlaght, Co. Armagh with the cup inside it. Image from Macdonald & O’Neill 2009.
In 2004 a metal-detectorist operating in a boggy field at Tamlaght, Co. Armagh uncovered a hoard of Late Bronze Age objects and reported them to the Armagh County Museum. The resulting archaeological investigation was only the second time the find spot of a Bronze Age hoard had ever been scientifically investigated. The hoard was deposted from dryland into what was then a bog just 700m from Haughey’s Fort, a Late Bronze Age Hillfort. The hoard consisted of a remarkable collection of objects indicating a European-wide network of trade links. An Irish made version of a continental Hemigkofen leaf-shaped bronze sword had been deposited in the bog in its leather sheath. Near the sword hilt was a bronze bowl that contained a bronze handled cup decorated with a variety of motifs including bosses and punches, horizontal ribs and grooves and a herringbone pattern on the handle. A bronze ring may have been used to suspend the bronze sword and scabbard from a belt.
The sword from Tamlaght, Co. Armagh. Image from Macdonald & O’Neill 2009.
Examination of the bronze bowl has indicated that it is an example of the central European Fuchsstadt type that is found from Norway to Romania and is dated to 1100-900 BC. The decorated drinking cup is a Jenisovice type which is found in central Europe from Denmark to Romania and is dated to 1000-900 BC. Together the bowl and cup probably formed part of a set of vessels used for drinking wine. The objects belonged to a high status man who may have been associated with Haughey’s fort nearby. The bronzes illustrate the very long distances from which high status objects were acquired in the Late Bronze Age and indicate that Ireland was part of a European-wide network of trade relations.
The Tamlaght Hoard is in the Ulster Museum, Belfast.
Macdonald, P. and O’Neill, J. 2009. Investigation of the find-spot of the Tamlaght hoard, Co. Armagh, in G. Cooney, K. Becker, J. Coles, M. Ryan and S. Sievers, Relics of Old Decency: archaeological studies in later prehistory. Dublin.