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12.04.2021

Dowris Hoard

The Dowris Treasure is the name of an important Bronze Age treasure trove of over 200 objects found in Dowris, Offaly, Ireland. Objects from the deposit are now divided between two institutions: The National Museum of Ireland in Dublin and the British Museum in London.

The treasure trove, consisting mainly of bronze objects, was probably a ritual repository, perhaps for religious purposes, although records of the discovery, made by agricultural workers in the 1820s, make it impossible to be sure whether it was a single deposit or a series. Modern thinking tends to view it as a series, perhaps over a very long period, of ritual deposits in the lake.

The importance of the hoard in the Irish prehistoric era has led to the final phase of the Irish Late Bronze Age (900-600 B.C.) being called the Dowries phase or period. Over time, Irish prehistoric bronze craftsmen became well versed in casting and sheet metal work, and the Dowris phase reflects the culmination of this as well as the industrial growth of metalworking. During this period, iron working had already been found on the European continent, in the Hallstatt "C" culture, and arrived in Britain. but did not reach Ireland. Until the culture was clearly disrupted about 600 B.C., gold jewelry of superior quality was produced, as well as weapons, tools, pipes, and other bronze objects, of which the Dowries hoard has an exceptional selection.

The treasure of Dauris was accidentally discovered in the 1820s by two men digging trenches for potatoes in a peat bog near the shores of Loch Coeur Lake. The area was covered by a shallow lake during the Bronze Age, which later silted up in the late Middle Ages. Dowris (also known as Doroshit or Duros) is located near the village of Wigsborough, northeast of Birr in County Offaly, Ireland. The treasure later came into the possession of William Parsons, 3rd Earl of Ross and T. D. Cooke. The latter sold his collection of Irish antiquities to the British Museum in 1854.

One of the largest collections of Bronze Age artifacts ever found in Ireland, the Dowries hoard originally consisted of more than 200 pieces, 111 of which are now in the collections of the National Museum of Ireland and 79 in the British Museum. The hoard contains a total of:

  • 44 spearheads.
  • 48 crotals (a musical instrument in the form of a rattle)
  • 43 sleeve axes
  • 26 bronze horns or pipes
  • 5 swords (about 48 cm long, possibly from the south of England)
  • A riveted bronze cauldron
  • Three buckets or situations
  • Numerous tools, including chisels and knives

The treasure contains all but two Bronze Age crotals (Greek Crotalon for castanet or rattle) ever found, the other two also of Irish origin. It is suggested that they acted as a kind of rattle, perhaps "in fertility cult rituals associated with the bull, echoes of which may survive in the early medieval tale of the Tyne. Bó Cúailnge ( The Cattle Chase in Culi)." There were a total of 48 pieces of two sizes in the hoard.

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