The middle Iron Age first to third centuries ad

It will be apparent from the previous analysis of the La Tène material assemblage that many of the types already considered, horse-bits, Y-shaped pendants, spear-butts, brooches and pins, must have continued in modified form into the opening centuries of the Christian era. Horse-bits of Types D and E, for example, are ornamented in a more formal curvilinear style that evidently reflects Roman influence, and in some instances associations with Roman imported material confirms this assessment. Likewise, developed examples of Y-shaped pendants, several found in association with bits of Types D and E, must be assigned to a relatively late horizon. Personal ornaments too certainly included types that continued into the first century ad. One example, which may have been developed as early as the first century bc, but which belongs predominantly to the first century ad, is the Navan type brooch (Figure 8.5, 8), characterized by its expanded 'spring' head and open-work bow, in which enamel studs or settings may be included. The foot is invariably cast in one with the bow, in the late La Tène fashion, but its pin is ingeniously attached by means of a ball-socket, as on one from Navan fort itself, and on another, the only example with confirmed associations, from Somerset in Co. Galway. With the latter was a bronze bowl-handle in the form of a bird's head, similar to that from the Keshcarrigan, Co. Leitrim, bowl, normally dated to the first century bc or first century ad. Hawkes (1982) saw the Navan brooches as a development of the British late Iron Age cross-bow types, and dated them from the later first century bc onwards. Jope saw still later Roman provincial influences in their form and ornament.

Connections between Ireland and Britain also evidently continued into the first century ad, perhaps rather later in Northern Britain, where the Roman occupation did not make a significant advance until the Agricolan campaigns of the 80s. Particularly striking are the similarities in two cauldron types (Figure 8.7A). One, the

Carlingwark Hoard

Figure 8.7 Ireland and Northern Britain: comparative metal-work. A: cauldrons. 1, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim; 2, Carlingwark Loch, Kirkcudbright; 3, Ballyedmond, Co. Galway; 4, Kincardine Moss, Stirlingshire. B: spoons. 1, Ireland, no provenance; 2, Crosby Ravensworth, Cumbria. Adapted from Raftery (1983) and MacGregor (1976).

Figure 8.7 Ireland and Northern Britain: comparative metal-work. A: cauldrons. 1, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim; 2, Carlingwark Loch, Kirkcudbright; 3, Ballyedmond, Co. Galway; 4, Kincardine Moss, Stirlingshire. B: spoons. 1, Ireland, no provenance; 2, Crosby Ravensworth, Cumbria. Adapted from Raftery (1983) and MacGregor (1976).

projecting-bellied type known by the site-name of Santon in Norfolk, is represented by four examples in Ireland, including the fine cauldron from a bog at Ballymoney, Co. Antrim. Just across the North Channel, a similar cauldron from Carlingwark Loch in Kirkcudbrightshire was filled with Roman as well as native Iron Age tools and equipment that Piggott (1953) dated to the late first or early second centuries ad. The other cauldron type, the globular variant, is again found in both Ireland and Northern Britain, as well as in south-east England. The example from Ballyedmond, Co. Galway, is regularly compared to one from Kincardine Moss, Stirlingshire; neither has dated associations, but on stylistic grounds both are generally assigned to the first century ad or thereabouts. The remarkable wooden cauldron from Altartate, Co. Monaghan, however, again serves as a reminder that these vast, beaten bronze communal vessels may have had their less grand domestic counterparts in wood, so that the surviving distribution reflects only a small proportion of high-status examples. It also raises the prospect that the basic typology need not have altered much from the late Hallstatt or early La Tene models, which in general terms, if not in specifics, they emulate.

Equally prestigious, but of personal rather than communal proportions, are the bronze bowls of Britain and Ireland, likewise having humbler counterparts in wood. Perhaps the finest example of the series, the bowl with cast bronze handle in the shape of a bird's head from Keshcarrigan, Co. Leitrim (Jope, 1954b; Raftery, 1984, Fig. 107, Pl. 69), also exhibits the use of a lathe in finishing the bronze casting of the bowl. It has frequently been compared to bowls from south-western England that are certainly cognate with, without necessarily being ancestral to, the Irish examples. In fact, as Raftery pointed out, the Irish bowls, in shape and rim form, bear closer resemblance to those from Stanwick, north Yorkshire, Lamberton Moor in Berwickshire and Lochar Moss, Dumfriesshire, reinforcing the Northern British connection at this period. Again, first-century ad contexts are more easily established than earlier ones, but there is every probability that the form derives from earlier antecedents. Cast bronze spoons (Figure 8.7B), sometimes found in pairs, have a widespread distribution in Southern Britain, though in Ireland all lack provenance. The Irish examples therefore can only be dated on the basis of their compass-drawn decoration, which in comparison with the Lough Crew flakes, once again suggests a first-century ad currency for the type. Examples from Britain, however, including the pair from Mill Hill, Deal in Kent, could be earlier, and the sole find from the Continent was certainly from a cemetery with La Tene 2 associations (Stead, 1995, 107). The function of these artefacts is quite uncertain. The fact that they occur in pairs, one of which sometimes is engraved with a cross while the other has a perforation through one edge, has led a succession of scholars to suggest a ritual or magical significance. But their occurrence in graves, as Stead pointed out, might imply a personal rather than ritual purpose.

Ceremonial crowns and prestigious display

The discovery of an Iron Age crown from Mill Hill, Deal, prompted a re-appraisal (Stead, 1995) of the evidence for ritual or ceremonial head-gear in Iron Age and Roman Britain, in the light of which it seems no longer so exceptional to regard the Cork horns (Figure 8.8A) and the 'Petrie' crown (Figure 8.8B) in the same category. The Petrie crown, unprovenanced and named after its nineteenth-century antiquarian owner, comprised originally a pair of horns, each attached to a frontal disc and the

Cork Horns
Figure 8.8 Ceremonial head-gear. A: the Cork horns; B: the Petrie 'crown'. Adapted from Raftery (1983).

whole mounted on an open-work frieze. Repairs, probably ancient, suggest that it could have undergone modifications, or could be a composite piece in its surviving form. Nevertheless the ornament of horns, discs and open-work panel is uniform in style, comprising thin trumpet curves leading to bird's head terminals, those of open-work panel and horns in particular being distinctive, though not identical, in their crested form. The discs have an elusive zoomorphic aspect, suggesting creatures with rounded muzzle and large button nose beneath spiral eyes. The Cork horns, found in 1909 on the margins of the river Lea, were reported as having leather still adhering to them, which would be consistent with their use as ceremonial head-gear. They are less lavishly decorated, but again have thin trumpet-curves and a pair of spiral 'eyes'. O'Kelly's technical examination of both these artefacts (1961), which has been endorsed by later scholars, argued that the ornament on these pieces had not been cast, but had been cut back into the thickness of the metal, to create the low relief effect. A third piece, the Bann disc (Figure 8.9A), displays the same style of ornament, with fine trumpet-curves and crested bird's heads in perfect rotational symmetry. Three perforations spaced around its perimeter, one still with a loop of bronze wire attached, suggests its use as a scales-pan. Raftery (1984) thought this function too humble for such a fine piece, but in the context of weighing precious metal, for example, it would surely have a high-status context.

The closest parallels, both for the ornament and for the 'cut-down' technique of achieving it, are once more with southern Scotland, where the Stichill collar from Roxburghshire matches both. This, too, was an old find, but its possible association with one or more 'massive armlet' supports a first- or second-century ad dating. Raftery rightly also pointed to the crested bird theme on North British dragonesque brooches of the same period as an example analogous to the Petrie and Bann bird's heads.

Closely related in style to the discs on the Petrie crown are the much larger discs of uncertain function, of which the only provenanced examples are from Monasterevin, Co. Kildare (Figure 8.9B), from which the group therefore takes its name. Up to 30 centimetres in diameter, and slightly concave in shape, they display an eccentrically located dished roundel, around which trumpet curves with coiled terminals resemble a face with staring eyes. Almost invariably a triple-circular element corresponds to the position of the 'mouth'. Once again the stylistic analogies are with Northern Britain. Much the same trumpet curves embrace the eyes of the Deskford carnyx, and form a principal component of the Culbin Sands armlet and the massive armlets of north-east Scotland. All the comparanda suggest a dating in the first and second centuries ad, with the sole exception, which Raftery (1984) considered to be the closest parallel, of the Norrie's Law plaque from Fife. This hoard unfortunately is of questionable value for dating. Deposited doubtless at some time in or around the seventh century ad, it contains material that is certainly residual from an earlier period. How much earlier the plaque might be, or how long the Monasterevin-type ornament might have survived, is therefore a matter of unresolved debate. But the stylistic similarities with the Irish discs, and the clear evidence for contacts between Ireland and Scotland in the opening centuries ad, afford a plausible earlier context for the Norrie's Law plaque.

Hitherto we have deliberately avoided confronting the nature of these interrelationships between Ireland and Britain, and more particularly with Northern Britain. Connections between Ireland, south-western and western Britain and the

Old Ireland Images
Figure 8.9 Ornamented discs. A: Bann disc; B: Monasterevin disc. Adapted from Raftery (1983).

Continent should certainly have been regular along the Western Seaways throughout prehistory, with the Iron Age as no exception. But the self-evident connections across the North Channel are more specific, and certainly indicate close links, perhaps at the level of ruling dynasties and their specialist craftsmen, over several centuries before the historically inferred settlement of Dal Riata. In recent years archaeologists have not favoured the simplistic Childean equation of artefactual distributions with discrete population groups, and hence should not expect any population movement to be manifest archaeologically by the appearance and distribution of novel artefactual, burial or settlement types. But the diplomatic and specialist links that might be inferred from the comparison of prestige goods discussed above could well have fostered an environment in which negotiated settlement of significant community groups could have become a reality.

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