Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Gleninsheen Gold Collar

The Glensinsheen Gorget (collar) is considered to be among the finest gold ornaments ever produced in Ireland. It dates to the Bronze Age and is thought to have been created between 800-700 BC. It was discovered in the Burren at Gleninsheen, Co. Clare by a young boy out with his dog. He spotted ‘something’ in a fissure (or ‘grike’) between two areas of limestone pavement (known as ‘clints’) and retrieved this treasure. Unfortunately, not everyone was as enthused with his discovery and, thinking it was a piece of coffin furniture, he was forbidden from bringing it inside his home. It languished under a bush for a number of years before it was identified as archaeological and was passed on to Adolf Mahr, then head of the National Museum of Ireland.

It’s a wonderful piece of complex ornamentation that would have been utterly striking when worn in the Bronze Age, but it’s the story of its discovery and near loss to scholarship that draw me back to it time and time again when I visit the museum. Go see it for yourself and be seduced by this incredible piece of artistry and craftsmanship, but spare a slight shudder at the thought of how close we came to losing it forever …

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