How can Iron Age bronze objects inform us on the Irish Iron Age?Discuss, using examples.
The Irish Iron Age differs from that on the Continent and Britain, there is no clear chronological progression between the Bronze Age and Iron Age due to the sparseamount of material evidence. Also there is limited evidence of Hallstatt influence, theLa Tene phase being predominant in the Irish Iron Age. The La Tene phase in Irelandis mostly represented through small artefacts and an art style, ‘the princely tombs, thegreat cemeteries, the “chariot-graves” and the distinctive pottery of Continental LaTene and its British counterparts are lacking’(O’Kelly 1989, 258). The La Teneartwork is characterised by a stylised curvilinear art primarily based on classicalmotifs such as ’leafy palmette forms, vines, tendrils and lotus flowers together withspirals, S-scrolls, lyre and trumpet shapes’ (Kelly 2002, 126). The lack of culturalevidence makes an accurate depiction of the lives of the Irish Iron Age peoplesdifficult, resulting in what has been referred to by some as a Dark Age in Irisharchaeology. Although there is evidence that iron was being used in Ireland, or atleast experimented with, ’bronzes, however, predominate. In casting and in sheetmetal-working, the Irish bronze smiths were the equal of any in Europe. They wereadept at using the lost wax process to create fine, three-dimensional casings, such asthe splendidly naturalistic bird’s head cup-handle from Keshcarrigan, County Leitrim’(Raftery 1991, 109). The reason for the deficiency of Irish Iron Age artefacts made of iron may largely be due to the perishable nature of iron rather than a lack of technological progression. In fact, the decreasing supply of bronze around this periodmade the transition to iron working imperative.