CLARE FACTS The Mooghane gold discovery

CLARE FACTS The Mooghane gold discovery

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Some of the celaborate gold ornaments discovered near Newmarket on Fergus
Some of the celaborate gold ornaments discovered near Newmarket on Fergus

Did you know that the largest collection of gold objects ever discovered in Europe was made in County Clare in the 19th century?

A hoard of elaborate gold ornaments was discovered by workmen engaged in building the railway line from Limerick to Ennis near Newmarket-on-Fergus in March of 1854.

The discovery was described at the time as “one of the most sensational in Irish archaeology.”

The discovery was made when a number of labourers digging near the railway bridge in Mooghane North undermined a box made of rough stones which contained a mass of gold ornament – armlets with cup-ends, thin gorgets, many circular fibulae, large bracelets with cup – shaped hollowed ends, a gold crown with ten points, a gold ring, and a splendid crescent collar of sheet gold and some ingots of gold of the purest description.

A later study of these objects show that they all belong to the latter period of the Bronze Age and all appear to have been personal ornaments. Unfortunately following the excitement and the scramble resulting from such a discovery many of the objects were sold for trifling sums and many more were melted down for the value of the metal. If the Clare find had been preserved in its entirety it would have proved to be the largest collection of gold objects ever discovered in Europe. Casts were made of several objects and these have been preserved in the Royal Irish Academy.

Mooghane is the most extensive hillfort in the county, with several acres of ground encompassed within its treble walls. It is located about 1.5 miles east of Newmarket and adjacent to the parklands on the Dromoland Castle estate.

The Mooghane (Mooghaun) hoard, c.800BC is on display at the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology, Kildare Street, Dublin 2.

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