Saturday, December 19, 2009

Ceramic Beads Recovered from Irish Bronze Age Burial

Archaeological find on N9 Published Date: 17 December 2009 By Maeve McGovern CERAMIC beads dating back 3,500 years and described as being of great significance have been discovered on the route of the new N9/N10 Athy Link Road. The series of 25 small ceramic beads, the only ones of their kind from the Bronze Age and a major coup for Irish archaeology, were discovered along with the cremated remains of a human body on the route. The cremated remains were discovered recently in a shallow pit adjacent to the site of a Bronze Age burial mound or barrow, which was discovered in the summer of 2007. As part of a routine process of sieving soil associated with human burials, technicians from Headland Archaeology, the firm contracted to carry out the archaeological dig, uncovered the precious beads. They were 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. Further study into the archaeology associated with the beads produced some intriguing information, according to a spokesperson for Headland Archeology. "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 3,500 years ago, and it would appear the body was cremated while wearing the beads." There have been significant finds of Bronze Age jewellery from Ireland, notably the gold collection in the National Museum; however these ceramic beads are a unique discovery for Irish archaeology. A total of 87 cremation burials were identified on the sections of the N9/N10 investigated by Headland Archaeology, and although this particular find 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. "Personal adornment was important in the Bronze Age. It is thought that beads would have been worn by both sexes and jewellery was not gender specific. The beads could signify that the individual was of a higher status, simply because such objects are generally not found associated with cremations. However, it is possible that less durable materials /or combustible materials were used for personal adornment and simply didn't survive the thousands of years in the ground or were burnt on the pyre," the spokesperson added. Colm Moloney MD of Headland Archaeology said the find was a great reward for all those people who invest so much time in the less glamorous side of archaeology such as processing soil samples.

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