Tamlaght Hoard (Bronze sword and bowl)

Location: Ulster Museum / History / Early Peoples

The Tamlaght hoard, discovered in County Armagh in 2004, is one of the most important finds of the Bronze Age. This reflects the fact that two of the objects are imports from central Europe dating to around 1000BC. These are the only objects of their type known from either Ireland or Britain.

The hoard consists of a sword, bowl and ring (which are on display) - and the fragments of decorated cup. The items had been carefully buried in what was then a marshy area. The cup had been placed inside the bowl and had partly disintegrated but enough survived to reconstruct its shape with intriguing results.

While the sword is of local manufacture, the cup with its ornate decoration, comes from the area of the modern Czech Republic. The bowl too is an import from south-east Germany where they have been interpreted as part of a Bronze Age drinking kit!

Both items clearly travelled a long way, probably passing through many dozens of hands as part of an exchange network. Perhaps they had been given as gifts or bartered for with other valuables.

The hoard is located in an area with significant Bronze Age activity including a substantial hillfort and the site of the Kings Stables – a ritual pool from which has been discovered a severed head of a young boy or girl and clay moulds for making bronze swords, just like the one on display from Tamlaght.  Perhaps the hoard belonged to a local chief or warrior?

What to look for when you visit: The sword originally had an organic handle and was carried in a ‘scabbard’ to protect its edge and tip. The bowl is displayed but the ornate cup is in too fragmentary a condition. Imagine the challenge of getting objects from central Europe to Armagh over 3000 years ago!

Image: Tamlaght hoard, County Armagh
Tamlaght hoard, County Armagh