A Non-local Source of Irish Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age Gold

Christopher D. Standish, Bruno Dhuime, Chris J. Hawkesworth, Alistair W G Pike

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

7 Citations (Scopus)


Lead isotope analyses of 50 Irish Chalcolithic and Early Bronze Age gold artefacts favour a gold source in southern Ireland. However when combined with major element analysis, the artefacts are not consistent with any Irish gold deposit analysed to date. Understanding the lead isotope signatures of ore deposits within a study region allows informed inferences to be drawn regarding the likelihood that an unanalysed ore deposit was exploited in the past. If an Irish gold source is assumed, then the gold is most likely to have originated from deposits hosted by Old Red Sandstone in the Variscan ore field of south-west Ireland. However, based on our current understanding of mineralisation in the region, this scenario is considered unlikely. A non-Irish source for the gold is therefore preferred - a scenario that may favour cosmologically-driven acquisition, ie, the deliberate procurement of a material from distant or esoteric sources. Available geochemical data, combined with current archaeological evidence, favour the alluvial deposits of south-west Britain as the most likely source of the gold.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the Prehistoric Society
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages29
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Chalcolithic
  • Early Bronze Age
  • gold
  • Ireland
  • lead isotopes
  • source

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