“This is part of the culture of Ireland”

Even though a group of 4 gold torcs were discovered near Stirling in 2009, they’re not that common.  According to the BBC report, Dr Greer Ramsey from Armagh County Museum told Belfast coroner, John Leckey, that “10 torcs have been discovered in Ireland and 38 in Britain”.

ANYhoo… the coroner has ruled that a [IIRC] 47 37 inch long flange-twisted gold torc, found in a bog in County Fermanagh, is an item of treasure.  And, as we know, “strange things happen in the bog“.

From the BBC report

It was found by Ronnie Johnston using a metal detector in Corrard, near Belle Isle estate in 2009.

It dates from 1300-1100 BC and would probably have been worn around the waist.

It is made of 87% gold and 11% silver and will now go to the Treasure Valuation Committee at the British Museum in London who will determine its value. [added link]

It will then be up to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure to secure funding to purchase the object in order to put it on public display.

And the coroner also had this to say

The coroner, John Leckey, described the Corrard torc as an extremely beautiful object and stressed the importance of reporting such finds to the authorities.

“I would regard it as an outcry if the object didn’t end up in Northern Ireland on display in a museum. This is part of the culture of Ireland,” he said.

He added how Culture Minister Caral Ni Chuilin should be alerted to the immense significance of the find, describing it as “an important day for Northern Ireland”.

Over to you, Minister…

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  • John Ó Néill

    If it is deemed as ‘treasure’ – it is automatically acquired by the state and the Valuation committee merely determine value to be paid to the finder/landowner. Not sure the issue of acquisition is as at all optional as BBC report suggests. Convention has been for Ulster Museum (as was) to access funds for purchase (e.g. from DCAL or National Lottery) or even with help of EHS (Built Heritage).

    Unless British Museum has begun to aggressively lobby, the coroners finding makes it inevitable this will end up in UM.

  • cynic2

    Surely its part of t6he history of the peoples who lived in the British Isles (all of it) at that time. Its not uniquely an ‘Irish’ artefact as they saw the world in quite different terms

  • glenda lough

    Interesting piece though the title mislead me. Thought it was about the McMahon findings.

  • glenda lough

    Apologies I gave Mahon a superfluous Mc.

  • JR

    Why stop there cynic? If Irish is a bad word for you and British is a bad word for me. lets just call it a european object.

  • wild turkey

    “Surely its part of the history of the peoples who lived in the British Isles (all of it) at that time. Its not uniquely an ‘Irish’ artefact as they saw the world in quite different terms”

    Cynic2. um, actually back when the torc in question was produced, our current notion of nation states was totally meaningless. the primary social, cultural unit of cohesion and allegiance was the tribe. and there were lots of tribes.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Celtic_tribes

    if you choose to put your preferred spin on the find, well it says a lot more about ……

    ah yes, now i get it? it’s not dissimilar to the Elgin Marbles. afterall, they are also British.

    for the life of me, i cannot be distracted by claims of ownership and au courant political allegiances. these torcs are such beautiful and high achievements of us; human beings. full fucking stop.

    the beauty and craftmanship and creativity of the torc is awesome and humbling…. whereas the torc was found in a bog, some current and puny considerations of its origin and contemporary currency might best be placed there.

    opps! promised the kids we would watch the recording of the final episode of Paxmans “Empire” about the Livingstones and Cecil Rhodes

    bye

    PS PB, thanks for this. my son the young archaeologist is currently stuck in a book on Celtic antiquities

  • cynic2

    “Why stop there cynic?”

    Do grow up JR. The people who inhabited these islands at that time were very different from us and had a different world view – my point was that we look at everything through our own preconceptions of our era and stick our cultural preconceptions on them.

    As that seems too difficult for you to understand, in future should I try and keep all words in posts under six letters?

  • cynic2

    “Cynic2. um, actually back when the torc in question was produced, our current notion of nation states was totally meaningless.”

    Exactly my point. It was a patchwork of kingdoms some of which may have spanned parts of what we now call Ireland Scotland England and Wales but whose peoples had none of those national conceptions

  • lamhdearg2

    read johns comment,

  • A couple of the comments above are either confused or confuse me.

    The dating suggested makes this a pre-Celtic object.

    The use of words like “kingdoms” is anachronistic.

    I await the usual corrections from those who know better.

  • A couple of the comments above are either confused or certainly confuse me.

    The dating suggested makes this a pre-Celtic object. “Celtic” is, of course, a language-group and a culture. All the peoples involved would likely be (as Charley Green barked at me, when I scratched at a bit of pre-undergraduate archaeology) “Mediterranean types”.

    The use of words like “kingdoms” is anachronistic.

    I await the usual corrections from those who know better.

  • A couple of the comments above are either confused or certainly confuse me.

    The dating suggested makes this a pre-Celtic object. “Celtic” is, of course, a language-group and a culture. All the peoples involved would likely be (as Charlie Green barked at me, when I scratched at a bit of pre-undergraduate archaeology — some humiliations never fade) “Mediterranean types”.

    The use of words like “kingdoms” is a convenient shorthand, but potentially makes anachronistic presumptions of social organisation and land tenure.

    I await the usual corrections from those who know better.

  • Sorry about the above. I had a succession of 504 error messages.

  • PaulT

    “Surely its part of t6he history of the peoples who lived in the British Isles (all of it) at that time. Its not uniquely an ‘Irish’ artefact as they saw the world in quite different terms”

    bit like the Titanic as NI didn’t exist when it was built

  • babyface finlayson

    PaulT
    “bit like the Titanic as NI didn’t exist when it was built.”
    I hereby invoke Winslett’s law.

  • cynic2

    “bit like the Titanic as NI didn’t exist when it was built”

    I agree.

    Looking at the other posts its amazing that even when we seem to agree we fall out or snarl and look for cause of offence! I am off now to kick the dog as a substitute

  • Mark

    Cynic2 ,

    ” kicking the dog ” is a national pastime in Thailand . Never show anger in public , just give the dog a boot when no one’s looking.

  • lamhdearg2

    i shall be pasing the above two comments on to the N.C.D.L..

  • lamhdearg2

    (dogs trust)

  • Mark

    LD2 ,

    I hope the N.C.D.L don’t have an office down in Spain ( European country beside France ) because that’s where they’ll find me this week ……….kicking a few spanish mutts , adios amigo …..

  • The yokel

    As Malcolm points out, this gold pre- dates the Celtic takeover of what is now called Ireland. The poor underprivileged late bronze age peoples had their culture and language totally overwhelmed by the Celtic invaders, starting 500BC ish. Will that true Gael, Caral Ni Chuilin, give this object the place it so richly deserves?

  • John Ó Néill

    Yokel, afraid there is no real evidence for actual invasions (i.e. large-scale population movement) after the end of the Ice Age until the Norse. There is circumstatial evidence that suggests inward migration around 6500 BC and again in 4300-4000 BC.

    Last detailed research on Bronze Age metalwork looked at groups of objects (hoards) and found those that included non-Irish objects were treated differently and didnt evidence standard patterning that was associated with hoards that only contained Irish objects (research was by Katharina Becker for her PhD at UCD). Ireland was self-sufficient in gold in the Bronze Age but probably imported most of its copper after about 1500 BC. As its prehistory, there are no written records, and you can interpret that anyway you like (xenophobia, imports as exotica etc).

  • lamhdearg2

    mark, anywhere near Murcia?, Noah’s ark, dogs like rats are everywhere. Kicking a dog in a ex/pat part of spain,will get you lynched.
    Back to the gold, give it to me, as i have lost my belt.

  • The yokel

    John I didn’t say there was an invasion but that their culture and especially language was overwhelmed. I followed with some interest Dewi and yourself discussing this on slugger a while ago and was struck by the apparent disappearance of the the Bronze age language ie there is little trace in Irish Gaelic of the old tongue?
    I have also read that in rural areas of the British isles(away from the Vikings) DNA evidence would show that there has been little change in the population since neolithic times.
    It is my understanding that the ability to make tools from a readily available material – iron, gave any people with this technology a huge advantage over bronze age cultures, where metal was an upper class thing and the peasants still used stone.
    As you say it is a matter of pure speculation what happened when the powerful new culture hit Ireland.

  • “Invasion” or not, there was some reason for the change in culture. The obvious explanation is the arrival of a group possessed of superior technologies. In the

  • (Strewth! Working inside these dialogue boxes is bad enough. Doing it on an iPad makes it far, far worse. To continue …)

    … case of the Celts, the obvious advantage is the use of iron.

    Consider, too, how the cult of Lugh deity/heroic figure (Lleu Llaw Gyffes to Dewi and his lot) figures in all that.

    Anyone speculate on how large a conquering incursion needs to be to dominate? Could a notional formula (numbers involved/degree of technological change) be adduced?

  • USA

    Cynic2,
    Ireland was an island 1,500 years ago and it’s still an island today. Get over yourself, the object should go to the Ulster museum.

  • John Ó Néill

    Yokel/Malcolm – the general problem understanding language change is that most documented examples happen when mass print culture is present. In Ireland, there was no significant overlay of Norse (or Norman French) beyond some vocabulary, even when there was known movement of people. Old English settlers and the plantations preceded the widespread adoption of English (in the 18th/19th century) by a number of centuries and needed a National School system plus print culture to more or less facilitate a change-over. In recent experience, population overlays are often accompanied by some pathogenic event which would collapse one of the two populations (think Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs and Steel) which probably did happen at the start of Neolithic c.4300 BC. If it is the immigrant population that survives obviously language change would be likely to follow. There is always the obvious complication in Ireland being an island that seems to make it much less likely that there would be large-scale population movements the further you go back into prehistory.

    It is hard to see where in prehistory the archaeological record (in Ireland) would support large-scale inward migration that might promote the same process. Even the replacement of copper technology by ferrous technology (around 600 BC) was probably a response to the eventual collapse of the large-scale copper extraction and distribution networks in central Europe that failed when iron emerged as the metal of choice in southern Europe after 1000 BC or so. It seems the collapse of markets can cause chain events even in prehistory.

  • Greenflag

    @ malcolm,

    ‘Anyone speculate on how large a conquering incursion needs to be to dominate?’

    The Norman conquest of England in 1066 was achieved with approx 25,000 . The estimated population of Britain at that time was 2,500,000. The Normans had chain mail , horses/cavalry and stone castle building and a century of defending fortifications from surrounding challengers behind them . They also had the Pope’s blessing . William’s army was a mixum gatherum of Norman French , Flemings , Bretons , and disparate ‘adventurers ‘ from as far afield as Sicily all motivated by the prospect of ‘rich’ pickings with the removal of Harald .

    And yet it was a close run victory in the end . A little indiscipline on the part of Haralds right flank and a ‘victorious ‘chase after some supposedly fleeing Bretons was enough to allow the Norman cavalry to break the Saxon defensive line and the rest as they say is history .

    The impact which the Normans had on later English and wider British and Irish history was immense if not in the DNA apart from a ruling minority then certainly in terms of language and culture . Britain and Ireland were turned from becoming almost off shore ‘Danish’ fiefdoms or part of the Scandinavian world to islands which were redirected towards the continent (France , Netherlands , Italy Rome etc ). Ironically this redirection which was to have enormous influence on the English language was achieved by people’s whose ancestors of a century before had themselves originated in Denmark/Norway etc .

    No 1066 or a different result and English today would sound something like a cross between Friesian , Danish and that other disease of the throat Dutch 😉

    The Bronze Age in Ireland ‘ended’ circa 500 BC and was proably in decline from about 1100 BC . There are many reasons posited for this decline one was increased population and resource scarcity the rise of hill fort cultures and many smaller ‘kingdoms’

    Mike Bailie of Queen’s university has posited even a dramatic climate change circa 1129 with his 20 year no growth tree ring study findings so a precursor to the arrival of iron age peoples could have been a population collapse prior to 500 BC .

    A good short intro to the subject of the Bronze Age in these islands is here

    http://www.wesleyjohnston.com/users/ireland/past/pre_norman_history/bronze_age.html

    There are plenty of links to more detail in the intro .
    Mike Bailie’s findings are at

    http://www.sis-group.org.uk/abstract/baillie.htm

    And the Megalith map

    http://www.megalith.ukf.net/bigmap.htm

  • Greenflag @ 1:51 pm:

    Interesting and helpful. Quite a bit there to follow up. Two immediate thoughts:

    1. I’ve seen “overgrazing” (does that mean over-population?) offered as an explanation of late-Bronze Age developments and movements. The “victory of the sky-gods” (circa 1250BC) is rehearsed generally, and attributed to some celestial event or other. Does that link with the dendrochronology? Hmmm … need to recapitulate here.

    2. I have to say I find that estimate of 25,000 Normans, all dropping in to anticipate Cliff Richards’ birthday (look it up!), somewhat over-the-top. I see elsewhere a total of 8,400 (2,200 horsemen, 1,700 bowmen and 4,500 foot-soldiers). 25,000 is, after all, a round number for each of the numbers landed on four of the five D-Day beaches or from air-drops (Omaha managed 34,000+).

    Anyway, for fun, if off-topic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=iv&src_vid=bDaB-NNyM8o&v=LtGoBZ4D4_E&annotation_id=annotation_559561

  • John Ó Néill

    There was a conference that specifically considered the 1200 BC issue a few years (more info here).

    I’m not sure modern vernacular English derives so much from Norman French as the literary language does (it is largely still Anglo-Saxon shoe-horned into spelling and grammatic conventions from Norman French). There is a critical distinction here between the written and spoken forms – top-slicing society to replace it and some of its social conventions (e.g. the documentary language of choice) will be highly visible in the written record (i.e. estate charters, chancery rolls etc) but are unlikely to be representative of the hugh proportion of society who are illiterate.

  • The yokel

    Just a thought.
    I think iron technology was of absolute importance. Bronze is expensive because of the rarity of copper tin ore. Iron ore is much more common but harder to turn into tools and required knowledge and skills handed down from generation to generation. These ancient iron-masters would have been highly impressive figures -able to turn reddish stone in tools and weapons so much better and cheaper than bronze and infinitely reusable compared to stone which once blunt or broken was discarded.
    So the Celtic iron technology produced cheap axes to clear forest for farming and good weapons to defend it. To be part of this you had to speak the language. Just like today where the language of technology is English and people who what to get on learn English

  • Mark

    Ld ,

    Sixty miles or so away from Murcia down south with all the broke beautiful people . Nearly got lynched last night by some ex pats watching ManU and not a dog in sight ……well bar a couple of scousers .

    Re the thai gold , check the pawn shops near the ex’s village . But if your interested in investing in a quarter of an elephant , let me know .

    You mentioned Noah’s Ark which is funny because he would be well at home with the bloody weather down here .

    Delighted to be back on speaking terms with my favourite loyalist ( Apart from Norman Whiteside of course ) .

  • terence patrick hewett

    @John Ó Néill

    As I see it Anglo-Saxon certainly lost its grammar during its transition to Middle English but although it picked up a lot of vocabulary from Norman French, it did not pick up aspects of its grammar. Middle English and thus modern English was transformed through influences derived from the indigenous Celtic Brittonic Substrate with the absorption of the “Continuous Aspect” of that language form.

    But I could be wrong: I often am.