Evidence has been found of an ancient gold route between the southwest Britain and Ireland by archaeologists that date to the early Bronze Age, 2500 BC.
The new technique which has been applied by researchers in measuring the chemical composition of some of the earliest gold artifacts in Ireland established that the objects has been made from gold that is imported from Cornwall in Britain.
Chris Standish from the University of Southampton in Britain, and the lead author of the study said, “This is an unexpected and particularly interesting result as it suggests that Bronze Age gold workers in Ireland were making artifacts out of material sourced from outside of the country, despite the existence of a number of easily-accessible and rich gold deposits found locally.”
Standish went on to say, “It is unlikely that knowledge of how to extract gold did not exist in Ireland, as we see large scale exploitation of other metals. It is more probable that an ‘exotic’ origin was cherished as a key property of gold and was an important reason behind why it was imported for production.”
The researchers have employed this advanced method for sampling gold from 50 early Bronze Age artifacts in the collections of the National Museum of Ireland, such as the basket ornaments, lunula and discs (necklaces).
Researchers have measured the isotopes of lead in small fragments and then compared it with the composition of gold deposits that is found in a range of locations.
The archaeologists have concluded after making further analysis that the gold in the objects most probably originated from Cornwall, rather than Ireland and it is possible that it has been extracted and traded as part of the tin mining industry.
The findings of the study are published in the journal Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society.