Bronze-Age Irish ‘Heavy Metal’ Music of 3000 Years Ago

Bronze-Age Irish ‘Heavy Metal’ Music of 3000 Years Ago


Ireland’s rich musical heritage is being showcased at Clare Museum in Ennis with an exhibition of ancient Irish musical instruments and musician’s clothing dating back more than 3000 years.


A reproduction of a large end blown Irish horn – the original dates from circa 800 BC in the Bronze Age and was found in Co. Kerry.

These early instruments are entirely fascinating: the early Irish people knew how to get down. Listen to these intriguing sounds here.


Many of the earliest Irish legends contain references to instruments and music, and Ireland’s large numbers of surviving metal horns account for an estimated 40 percent of the world’s total. Among them is a late Bronze Age horn, part of a collection of Bronze Age artefacts found in a bog at Booleybrien, Kilmaley, County Clare, in 1930 and which is on loan to Clare Museum from the National Museum of Ireland.

In February 1930, while digging a boundary ditch to drain a bog garden at Booleybrien, in Kilmaley, barony of Islands, Dan Greene and his son Pat Joe unearthed a Late Bronze Age (1000-600 BC) hoard of 11 objects. The smaller items in the hoard had been placed inside a bronze horn, which was in turn wrapped in a goatskin. The finds were made at a mud level that contained tree stumps below the peat and above the gravel. Dan left the objects on top of a dresser in the kitchen to show them to his son Michael who was away at All Hallows Seminary in Dublin studying to be a priest. When Michael arrived home during the summer he immediately recognised the importance of the objects and set about reporting the finds to the National Museum of Ireland.

Interestingly, the earliest musicians’ outfits were found in County Clare. The display in Ennis will include a reconstructed outfit worn by a Bronze Age horn player from between 1,000 and 800BC. This is possibly the oldest know garb specifically designed and made to be worn by a musician.

Ancient Music Ireland reproduced the musician outfit and included two axes, a sword, buttons, a belt buckle, a cloak pin, chain strap and most importantly the bell of a Bronze Age horn. Apart from the bronze horn and the sword, the rest of these items were made by metallurgist Holger C. Lönze in Co. Cork. The simple clothing including a leather jerkin, a herringbone woven wool cloak and a leather belt were included with the bronze to make a convincing proposal of what the original may have looked like 1,000 to 800 BC.

Experts from Ancient Music Ireland will provide demonstrations and talks on the development of horns and trumpas from the late Bronze Age (2,300 BC) to the Early Medieval Christian period (700 AD) from midday to 5pm tomorrow (Tuesday 16 August) and from 10.00 am to 5.00 pm on Wednesday 17 and Thursday 18 August.

Music nerds, get on your bike and get to Ennis.


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