While I have written about Irish Bronze Age jewellery and how it inspires my designs I haven't looked at the areas of Ireland where much of this jewellery has been found. It was only on a recent trip to the National Museum of Ireland that I realised I've never written about Irish bogs and the role they played in preserving our archaeology. For those of you not familiar with the term, a bog is a type of wetland. This marshy land is covered in plants and mosses on the surface under which lies peat. While it might look solid peat contains about 90% water and only 10% solid material so you need to watch your step!
There are many bogs dotted around the country, with probably the largest areas of bog in the midlands. Growing up in Kerry you were never too far from a bog and our summers always involved a few trips to the bog to turn turf...but that's a whole other blog post! The fascinating thing about bogs is how the conditions were perfect for preserving anything buried in its wet, acidic soil. The low temperature, lack of oxygen and high acidity of the soil combine to create excellent preservation conditions.
Because of this metal, wood, leather and fabric objects can survive for thousands of years in good condition. This has meant that archaeologists have made some amazing discoveries in bogs such as large hoards of jewellery, preserved prehistoric bodies and even 3,000 year old butter! The number of spectacular discoveries from the bogs suggests that the people of the Bronze Age thought of the bogs as special places and there must have been a practice of burying hoards of metal objects in lakes, rivers and other waterlogged areas such as bogs.
The National Museum offers a few explanations as to why this was the case; accidental loss, safe-keeping, ritual activities or votive offerings as part of religious ceremonies are the most probable. Regardless of the reasons, the difficulty in recovering these items suggests that they were never meant to be retrieved. Here are just a few amazing finds that have come out of the bogs of Ireland.
This gold lunulae and pair of gold discs were found in a bog in Co. Roscommon in 1945. The find only came to light in recent years when it was stolen from a private safe. Since its recovery it has gone on display in the National Museum of Ireland.
This oak barrel of butter was found in a bog in Co. Kildare. It's weights 77 pounds and was full of exceptionally well preserved 3,000 year old butter, although I'm not sure if anyone tasted it!
This photo shows just some of the Mooghaun Hoard which was found in Co. Clare in 1854. The total find weighed more than 5 kilos and consisted of bracelets, gold collars and neck rings. Hopefully that has inspired you to visit the bog and turn some turf, you'd never know what you might find!