Bronze Age Gold Lunula
The Gold Lunula is a distinctive type of early Bronze Age collar necklace shaped like a crescent moon. Lunulae are flat and thin, with roundish terminals that are twisted to 45 to 90 degrees from the main body of metal.
Gold lunulae were made sometime in the period between 2200–2000 BC and have mostly been found in Ireland. There are also smaller numbers in other parts of Europe in areas of the continent near the Atlantic coasts.
Of the more than a hundred gold lunulae that have been identified, more than eighty are from Ireland. They were all the work of a handful of expert goldsmiths, though the three distinct types are presumed to have had different creators.
Gold Lunula finds in graves are rare, suggesting they were regarded as a clan property rather than personal possessions. Some were found in bogs, perhaps suggesting ritual deposits, more were found on higher ground, under “standing stones.”
Most gold lunulae have decorative patterns very much resembling pottery patterns from about the same period. The decorations included geometrical patterns of straight lines, zig-zags, and criss-cross patterns.
The curving edges of the lunula are generally followed by curving border-lines, often with decoration between them. The decoration between the borders is typically most dense in the forward sections.
The Lunulae were made by hammering a rod of gold flat, so it became sheet-like and fitted the desired shape. The decoration was then applied by impressing designs with a stylus.
The stylus used often leaves tell-tale impressions on the surface of the gold, allowing the identification of lunulae made with the same tool.
Several examples have a heavily crinkled appearance suggesting that they had been rolled up at multiple times, suggesting their use over many generations.
Bronze Age Gold Lunula
- Title: Bronze Age Gold Lunula
- Dated: 2200–2000 BC
- Period: Chalcolithic or (most often) early Bronze Age
- Discovered: Blessington, Co. Wicklow, Ireland
- Materials: Gold
- Type: Prehistoric Art and Ancient Artifacts
- Museum: British Museum
Gold lunula found in 1911 in Schulenburg, Lower Saxony, Germany – Lower Saxony State Museum
Classification of Gold Lunula
Archaeologists have classified gold lunulae into the following groups:
- Classical – The widest, heaviest, and also thinnest group.
- Unaccomplished – Similar but narrower and less skillfully executed.
- Provincial – Thicker and more rigid.
The “Classical” type is thin enough to be flexible when worn, and for the incised decoration to appear as relief on their underside.
Some of the “Classical Lunulae” have a variation in thickness across the piece, with the inner edge often three times thicker than the middle and the outer edge twice as thick.
Finds of “Classical Lunulae” are concentrated in the north of Ireland, probably near the sources of gold, with “Unaccomplished Lunulae” find spots are mostly from a “peripheral border” around this area.
A few “Classical Lunulae” have been found on the north Cornish coast and in southern Scotland, probably as a result of trade or migration.
Gold Lunula found near Clogher, Co. Tyrone, Ireland – Ulster Museum Prehistory
The “Provincial Lunulae,” of which only one example, has been found in Ireland are thicker and more rigid, they were probably all made outside Ireland. Their decoration can be more varied and are subdivided divided into two groups:
- Provincial “dot-line,” found in Scotland and Wales
- Provincial “linear,” found in Cornwall, Belgium and north Germany, as well as the Irish example. The northern coast of France has both types.
Lunulae were probably replaced as neck ornaments firstly by gold torcs, found from the Irish Middle Bronze Age. Later, still in the Late Bronze Age, Lunula evolved in gorges of thin ribbed gold, some with round discs at the side.
Bronze Age Gold Jewellery
Virtual Tour of Prehistoric Art and Ancient Artifacts
- Ain Sakhri Lovers
- Wolverine Pendant of Les Eyzies – Prehistoric Portable Art
- Antler Perforated Baton – Paleolithic Portable Art
- Venus of Brassempouy
- Head of a Cycladic Statue, Keros-Syros Culture
- Stargazer – Sculpture of a Female Figure
- Stargazer Figurine
- Dancing Girl (Mohenjo-Daro) from the Indus Valley Civilization
- Prehistoric Stone Hand Axe
- Great Handaxe from Furze Platt
- Clovis Weapons and Tools
- Neolithic Chinese Painted Pottery
- Korean Neolithic Pot
- Neolithic Pottery from Ban Chiang
- Li – Chinese Tripod Jar
- Comb-Pattern Pottery
- Phaistos Disc
- Sican Funerary Mask – Peru
- Greenstone Mask, Central America
- Australian Aboriginal Rock Art – Bradshaw Rock Paintings
- Indigenous Australian Rock Art – Wandjina Style
- Prehistoric Deer Skull Headdresses
- Bronze Age Gold Lunula
Gold Hoard (800 – 700 B.C.) discovered at Mooghaun North Co Clare Ireland
Virtual Tour of Important Historical Artifacts
- Prehistoric Stone Hand Axe – 2.6 Million Years Ago
- Narmer Palette – 3,100 BC
- The Stargazer (Statuette of a Woman) – 3000 BC
- Neolithic Painted Pottery – 2,500 BC
- Dancing Girl (Mohenjo-Daro) – 2,500 BC
- Li – Chinese Tripod Jar – 2,300 BC
- Treasure from Troy – 2,200 BC
- Gudea, Prince of Lagash – 2,120 BC
- Law Code of Hammurabi – 1,750 BC
- Nebra Sky Disk – 1600 BC
- Mask of Agamemnon – 1,500 BC
- The Sphinx of Hatshepsut – 1,470 BC
- Tutankhamun’s Mask – 1,323 BC
- Mummy of Katebet – 1,300 BC
- Book of the Dead – Papyrus of Ani and Hunefe – 1,250 BC
- Avanton Gold Cone – 1250 BC
- Relief of a Winged Genie – 880 BC
- Siloam Inscription – 700 BC
- The Lion Hunt – 640 BC
- Babylonian Map of the World Tablet – 550 BC
- Ishtar Gate – 575 BC
- The Curse of the Tabnit Sarcophagus – 500 BC
- Kleroterion – 470 BC
- The Parthenon Marbles – 440 BC
- The Alexander Sarcophagus – 300 BC
- The Winged Victory of Samothrace – 200 BC
- The Rosetta Stone – 196 BC
- The Pergamon Altar – 150 BC
- Antikythera Mechanism – 100 BC
- The Temple of Dendur – 10 AD
- James Ossuary – 1st-century
- Lindow Man – 2 BC and 119 AD
Virtual Tour of Famous Maps
- Jacques-Nicolas Bellin Map of the Straits of Malacca
- Abraham Ortelius Map of Southeast Asia
- Meto Navigation Chart
- Stick Chart for Sea Navigation
- Ptolemy’s View of the Solar System
- Piri Reis Map
- Babylonian Map of the World – Imago Mundi
- Ancient and Historical Maps
- Theatrum Orbis Terrarum
Gold Collar (800 – 700 B.C.) discovered in Co. Clare Ireland
In Search Of Irish Gold
“You can’t use an old map to explore a new world.”
– Albert Einstein
Photo Credit: 1)John Maynard Friedman / CC0 Lower Saxony State Museum / CC BY (creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0); Notafly / CC BY-SA (creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)