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Early metalwork in Ireland
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Early metalwork in Ireland
Late Bronze Age (1000–500 BC)
Country Cork, Ireland

This trumpet was acquired by General Pitt-Rivers, possibly when he was stationed in Ireland on military service in the 1860s. It is recorded as being found when ‘digging in a drain at Kanturk, Country Cork’. One suggestion is that it was used in battle. Noise played a major role in ancient warfare and the sound of a Celtic war trumpet could strike fear into enemies’ hearts. Instead of producing just one note, the player could vary the shape of his lips to produce a variety of deep, low sounds.

Many Bronze Age horns and trumpets have been found in Ireland. This example is typical of the type found in the southwest of the country, featuring a ring of spikes or cones and a series of holes near the mouth, but otherwise plain along its length. Such horns are said to be technically superior and different to those found in more northern parts of Ireland.

The trumpet would have been cast in a double mould. The mould probably included at the narrow end (missing here) an extension loop to attach it to a belt or baldrick, plus additions to create the ring of decorative spikes. As such this instrument is a fine example of the skills and techniques employed by the smith in the complex process of metal casting.