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Bronze mounted wooden bucket found in a pit burial at Aylesford. Early Iron Age. Horned bronze helmet with traces of enamel orna
The objects here represented are all in ment, found in the Thames near Waterloo Bridge. the British Museum. By permission, from the British Museum Guide to the Early Iron Age.
With the discovery of iron as the ideal metal for cutting implements and weapons, we enter into the millennium before the Christian era; for roughly speaking, the development of the civilization associated with the gradual substitution of iron for bronze began about 1ooo B.C. Again we look towards the south-east of Europe for the earliest evidence of this great advance; from that quarter it gradually spread over the whole continent, reaching the more northern parts about five hundred years later. In Egypt, the home of a marvellous civilization at a very early time, the conditions were different, and there is reason to suppose that iron was known there long before it was in use on the northern side of the Mediterranean. Our knowledge of the dates at which iron was first known in parts of Asia is still very limited, and further discoveries must be awaited.
The archaeology of Ireland presents features in many respects different from those of the rest of the British Islands in the Stone and Bronze Ages. Such affinities in style as are traceable connect it rather with Scotland than with any part of the south, a fact doubtless due to proximity as well as in part to race connexions. A special feature is the astonishing quantity of gold that was produced in Ireland during the early Bronze Age. The frequent discovery of gold ornaments of this time has enriched to a surprising degree the museum of the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin, while many private and public collections both in Ireland and elsewhere contain a considerable number of similar relics. If these represented the total wealth of gold of the Bronze Age the amount would probably exceed that of any ancient period in any country, except perhaps the republic of Colombia in South America. But the known remains can only be a small proportion of the original wealth. Vast quantities must have been discovered from medieval times onwards, nearly all of which would be melted down, owing to the ignorance of the finders or to the uncertainty of ownership. Further, it may be taken as certain that there still remains in the earth a great mass of the metal which may or may not be discovered at some future time. If it were by any means possible to estimate what these united categories would amount to, the result would scarcely be credited. It is well known that gold has been, and still is, found in Ireland; but it is hard to believe that there were no richer deposits than are now known. It is at any rate certain that the rivers were worked as late as the opening centuries of our era. In the Bronze Age the most characteristic ornaments were penannular objects of all sizes from a small finger ring up to an armlet, generally known as “ring money” from the difficulty of assigning a definite use to the whole series; and the flat, crescent-shaped, diadem-like objects called “lunulae,” which are perhaps even more definitely characteristic of Ireland. Such objects of gold, if ornamented at all, are, like some of the flat axe-heads, engraved with simple geometrical patterns, lozenge-shaped chequers and the like, a type of decoration in itself easily determined as being of the Bronze Age, but bearing at the same time an interesting and very curious analogy to remains of the same period from the Iberian Peninsula, more especially from Portugal. If any overland culture-relations existed between the two countries, it would be only reasonable to expect the occurrence of the objects in question in the intervening districts. But so far nothing of the kind has been discovered. Moreover, had it been an isolated instance of resemblance it might be negligible, but an equally odd similarity is found in the fact that the Irish were in the habit of grinding the faces of their flint arrow-heads, an apparently useless refinement, while the Portuguese of the early Bronze Age did the same. Again, the dolmens of Ireland bear a distinct resemblance to those of Spain and Portugal, while the French dolmens, with few exceptions in the north, have a different character. These curious points are in favour of the tradition that the original inhabitants of Ireland were of Iberian origin, and further, that they did not come overland but by sea, and there are indeed signs of extensive navigation in the Bronze Age of northern Europe. It was perhaps in the middle of our Bronze Age, say about 1ooo B.C., that this Iberian race was supplanted by the
Celts, who took a considerable time to emerge from their native barbarism. It is, at any rate, fairly certain that for some hundreds of years previous to this Celtic invasion, Ireland was an enormously rich country, supplying not only herself, but also Britain and part of the Atlantic seaboard with gold. The fact became eventually an ingrained tradition in the history of the country, subsisting in Irish literature for centuries after the Christian era. Such natural wealth must have produced in these early times a marked effect on the relations and culture of these Iberian Irish, and one might reasonably expect a much higher level of luxury and wealth than is indicated by the remains commonly found. With the opportunities provided by communication with the continent, and the interchange of goods, with all the chances of benefiting by ideas current among other races, it is astonishing that Ireland did not play a more prominent part in Europe, more than a thousand years before the Christian era. While gold as a metal was known in Europe, even before copper, it is a curious fact that silver was almost unknown, and hardly ever used. One of the most interesting sites for the metal, at about the same period of which we have £ just been speaking in Ireland, was the Mediterranean :* coast of Spain. Here in the neighbourhood of Almeria have been found remains of a large and apparently prosperous population ranging from the Stone Age to the end of the Bronze Age, with houses and tombs, besides the fortifications rendered necessary, in the later period, by their possession of the rare and precious metal, silver. Rare it certainly was, for the quantity found was exceedingly small, tiny slender rings for the fingers or the ears, and rivets to hold the axe-blade in its handle; but nothing to compare with the lavish richness of the American mines. The interesting race who occupied these dwellings and finally were laid to rest in the adjoining graves were evidently connected more or less closely with the peoples inhabiting the eastern coasts of the Mediterranean. Recent discoveries in the central Mediterranean area not only furnish new and trustworthy (though none the less surprising) dates in ancient history, but may also bridge the distance between the Levant and the Pillars of Hercules. The results achieved by Arthur Evans and other distinguished explorers in Crete (q.v.) opened a new chapter in the history of European civilization, and may fitly be compared with the excavation of Troy, Mycenae and Tiryns by Schliemann some thirty years before. The progress of archaeology in the interval can be well tested by a comparison of the discussions to which the two series of discoveries gave rise. The mistaken attributions and unfortunate animosities in connexion with earlier excavations are almost forgotten, while the brilliant discoveries in the island of King Minos have not only themselves been made on scientific principles, but are illumined by the splendid revelation of the civilizations of the Mycenaean and the pre-Mycenaean era. A great change indeed took place in the methods of classical study during the last decade of the 19th century, a change which affected the entire character of future classical Classical research. It was formerly the common habit among students and professors of archaeology to confine their attention and their interests entirely to classical texts and even to classical sites, rejecting as outside the scope of their studies anything that was not manifestly beautiful as art. Whatever was primitive in its aspect, or wanting in the familiar characteristics that had for centuries been associated with Greek art, was either rejected entirely or at any rate relegated to a second place, as having but a poor claim to be classed with objects of the finer periods. The result was necessarily misleading. The uninstructed majority very naturally regarded the art of Pheidian times as a thing of supernatural growth, which had been bestowed by divine favour upon a chosen spot on the earth, without a human parentage, and almost without leaving any descendants. The evolutionary methods of other branches of science, however, were by degrees brought to bear upon the sacred precincts of pure Greek art. It was found that the crude products of the second millennium b.c., the formless images evolved by the uncultured dwellers in the Mediterranean area more than a