Cauldrons and buckets

Location: Ulster Museum / History / Early Peoples

Cauldrons and buckets are the largest objects made from metal in the Bronze Age. There are two cauldrons on display from Portglenone and Cape Castle, Co. Antrim; and one bucket from Dervock, Co. Antrim.

They are usually made from three sheets of bronze, one forming the base and the other the sides. These are riveted together. Two carrying handles are then attached.

Some 40 cauldrons are known from Ireland and 10 buckets, predominately found in bogs which is a feature of this period.

It is likely that the cauldrons were used as cooking pots for meat though it is uncertain if they were set on the fire or suspended from their handles with chains. The idea of the cauldrons being used for cooking meat is strengthened by their association with large fork like objects known as flesh hooks. Buckets on the other hand were presumably used for holding liquids and possible alcoholic drinks.

The fact that both have so many repairs suggests they were a valued item. Later references to the Iron Age Celts in Europe mentions cooking of meat in cauldrons at great feasts held by the King.

What to look for when you visit: The cauldrons and buckets are made from sheets of bronze which are held together by rivets. Notice to the numerous repairs. There is an image of an impressive flesh hook from Dunaverny, near Aromy, Co. Antrim on a panel close to the case with the Cape Castle cauldron.

Image: Bronze Age Cauldron
Bronze Age Cauldron