Bronze Age

2,000-500 bc

Visit the heritage centre and take a tour around the Bronze Age where a technical revolution began in Ireland with the introduction of copper, and later bronze.

This alloy of tin and copper could be beaten into different shapes or cast by pouring it into stone or clay moulds.

A greater range of tools and implements were now available, and these were stronger and more durable than their stone predecessors.

Stone weapons didn’t, however, die out, but continued to be used along with the new tools for centuries.

These new tools and implements meant that farmers could buy more land and cultivate it better. There is evidence of well-developed field systems at this time, including the use of crop rotation.

The sickle was introduced for the harvesting of corn and grass. The ox-drawn plough, and horse seem also to have been introduced to Ireland at this time. The Bronze Age in Ireland is notable for its wealth of gold ornaments, and the National Museum in Dublin
boasts the finest collection of Gold in Western Europe.

Burial customs varied around this time. Earlier in the period it was common to have burial of the whole bodies, but this later gave way to cremation, and burial of the ashes and unburned bones. They would often be placed in a pottery vessel shaped like an urn.

Two different grave styles were used. A cist was a shallow pit lined with stones and covered with a large flat capstone. The other was made simply by removing the earth and inserting the remains.

Some graves were marked by standing stones in the earth above. The example of a cist in the Heritage Park is based on a cist burial found in Annagh, Gorey, Co. Wexford.

Stone circles date from the Neolithic – Early Bronze age (around 2,000 BC). These were sacred places, for the performance of rituals, whose nature and purpose remain a mystery. They may have been associated with the dead, as some burials have
been found within some of those excavated.

Quartz was used, which also points to a ritual use. Quartz was a known indicator of copper and gold, and may have been thought to have magical properties.

The circles are almost invariably the same. Each has an entrance (back of the photo) which faces North-East, and this is directly opposite the lowest stone. This is always flat-topped in contrast to the other stones (front of the photo).

This has led to the suggestion that the circles have some astronomical significance although it is difficult to establish proof for this theory.

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