What are Irish Bronze Age Lunulae?

Irish Bronze Age Lunulae

The earliest groups of gold objects began to be produced in Ireland between 2200 and 1800 BC. Although earrings, bracelets, a gold pin, and decorated gold bands and plaques have been found the most prevalent type of jewellery at the time were Lunulae. These were flat crescent shape sheet of gold which were worn as neck ornaments. The word lunula was first used in the 18th century. It is derived from the Latin for 'little moon'.

Lunulae are regarded as the most characteristic gold object of the Irish Early Bronze Age. Of the approximately one hundred lunulae found in Western Europe over eighty of these have been found in Ireland. It is widely believed that these lunulae found outside of Ireland are exports or may have been made abroad by travelling Irish craftsmen. Instead of Ireland receiving influences from abroad the process, in this case, seems to work the other way around. These lunulae offer the first strong evidence that Ireland had a distinctively Irish cultural form.

These lunulae are made using flattened gold which is hammered to an extremely thin sheet and formed into a crescent shape. This was finished with two small discs of gold which are set at right angles to the plane of the crescent. The lunulae are often decorated with incised or punched geometric patterns which were applied with considerable skill. These designs can be compared with decoration found on pottery and spearheads found from that era.

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