Bronze Age Jewellery Found in Co. Kildare

Archaeologists at Rubicon recently made a unique and intriguing discovery while working on behalf of the National Roads Authority and Kildare County Council on the route of the Athy Link Road. The cremated remains of a human body were discovered in a shallow pit adjacent to the site of a Bronze Age burial mound or barrow. Although this was one of many cremations recovered dating to the Bronze Age along the route of the proposed new road, processing of samples taken from the burial revealed that this was by no means a normal burial. As part of a routine process of sieving soil associated with human burials, technicians from Rubicon identified a series of 25 small ceramic beads. The beads were immediately recognised as being of great significance and passed to a leading expert in prehistoric ceramics who confirmed that the beads belonged to a necklace or bracelet for which he could find no comparison.

Prehistoric Ceramic Beads (E2989)

Further study into the archaeology associated with the beads produced some intriguing information. Although the fragmentary nature of the cremated bone made analysis very difficult, it was possible to determine that the individual was an adult rather than a child and probably female. A sample of the burnt bone was sent to the Scottish Universities Environmental Research Centre where it was subjected to radiocarbon dating. This confirmed that the individual was cremated around 3500 years ago.  The burial was one of a group of three that were placed around a burial mound which is likely to have served as a cemetery for the local Bronze Age population.

Research is on-going for this site and over 150 others excavated in advance of the N9/N10 in Counties Kildare and Carlow at the offices of Rubicon Heritage Services Ltd in Cork, and it is hoped that final reports will be complete for all excavations along the route late in 2010.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. Angela

    Nice Blog with a clever title!
    Lovely little beads – are they decorated or coloured at all?

    1. Damian Shiels


      They are just plain now, but there is nothing to say that they wouldnt have been coloured in prehistory.


  2. Bernie Carney

    Nice to know that women 3500 years ago were into their fashion, I’ll be taking my swarovski collection to the grave with me!

  3. Sam Walsh

    Hi, this is very interesting. I was wondering, do the beads have any sign of heat alteration?

    1. Damian Shiels

      Hi Sam, I take it you are interested to see if the beads were cremated with the body or added subsequently? They were initially fired during their manufacture process, and we think it likely that they were used during the cremation ceremony, though we cant say for certain if they were burned with the body or not. I hope this answers your question!

  4. Patrick Treacy

    Thanks for putting up the hi-res photo – was really nice to see them in such detail. What would they have been strung onto? Leather?

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