back to article Au-mazing! Cornwall sold GOLD to Ireland back in the Bronze Age

Paleo-boffins from the the University of Southampton have found evidence of an ancient trade route for gold between Ireland and Cornwall in the south-west of Britain. The study suggests people were trading gold between the two islands as long ago as the early Bronze Age, around 2500BC. In a paper titled A Non-local Source of …

  1. Anonymous Blowhard

    "the boffins raised questions about the extraordinary early Bronze Age gold hoards that have been found in Ireland far more commonly than anywhere else in Europe."

    No need for questions, it's leprechauns!

    1. Mage Silver badge
      Thumb Up


      Oddly sort of true..

      Probably 1850BC to 550BC was Tuath Dé, later renamed Tuatha De Danann by the Monks.

      Lugh of the Long Arm was a famous Tuath Dé hero who killed Balor.

      He later was regarded as God of Skills, inc shoe making. (Cordwainer)

      He's in Welsh Legend too.

      Lugh Lamfada (=long arm) is corrupted later to leprechaun, often deplicted as fairy shoe makers.

      Sidhe means mound.

      Tuatha De Danann where later called the Sidhe (Shee in English), or Fair Folk, or Fairy Folk. In the oldest legends the Tuath Dé are Fair or Red hair, pale skin, tall and from the "North". They also like gold very much.

      2000 to 550 saw export of huge amount of Copper to Europe from Cork and Tin from Cornwall to make Bronze. The start of Bronze age is actually the Copper Age. This period also is when most lowland forests in Ireland were cleared for agriculture. Perhaps Cattle was important (The Tain)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: leprechauns!

        Those damned Fomorians nicking all our gold again. Just because Balor lost his eye...

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: leprechauns!

        I thought the Táin Bó Cúailnge was supposedly set around 1st century CE, but possibly described events from somewhat later? (I'm ready to be corrected).

      3. Lord Raa

        Re: Tuatha De Danann

        Tuatha De Danann certainly explains how they travelled from Ireland to Cornwall so steathily.

        Mine's the one with the MITHRIL logo on the sleeve.

    2. Pookietoo

      RE: it's leprechauns

      More like Piskies (or perhaps Knockers) if you believe the boffins.

  2. This post has been deleted by its author

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Trading or raiding?

    What did Ireland have that Cornwall wanted?

    Or were they selling "insurance"?

    1. Mage Silver badge

      Re: Trading or raiding?


    2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      It's obvious

      The thing Ireland had (no use for) that Cornwall wanted was metal detectors.

    3. This post has been deleted by its author

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trading or raiding?

      Guinness !

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: Trading or raiding?

        Tarmac driveways!

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Trading or raiding?

      Pasties obviously.

  4. Andy The Hat Silver badge

    Selling? Trading?

    Why not Seamus O'Neanderthal nipping across at the dead of night on ye olde dug-out, tapping a Cornish pre-historic aristo on the noggin and nipping back to the land of the Leprechaun with gold as the proof of conquest?

    1. Mage Silver badge


      About 8,000 years at least after Neanderthals. maybe 10,000 later.

      They had MUCH better boats than a dug-out.

      This is Bronze age, not pre-Neolithic.

      Leprechauns are a 18th Century folk invention popularised later by Victorians and Hollywood. They don't exist in older tales.

      Of course all of us are maybe a bit O' Neanderthal, supposedly only 0.12% DNA difference.

      1. Eddy Ito

        Re: Neanderthal

        ... supposedly only 0.12% DNA difference.

        Horizontal gene transfer, it's a bitch.

        1. x 7

          Re: Neanderthal

          Horizontal gene transfer?

          Is that another name for the missionary position?

      2. Peter Johnston 1

        Re: Neanderthal

        You obviously haven't been to Ireland. They're a bit behind the times.

    2. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Selling? Trading?

      Because while raiding works, in the long run commerce generally proves to be more profitable. It requires less labor and involves less risk, and it's open to a wider range of entrepreneurs because it doesn't emphasize personal physical capabilities. And it can (and will) be done in stages. Even barter societies usually come to recognize this eventually.

      And that's why we find, for example, copper sourced from the Great Lakes in artifacts from ancient cultures in what's now Mexico. Salable goods were traded along the river systems of the Midwest until they reached the Mississippi (where they could be concentrated in Cahokia, for the period when that was a thing), and gradually made their way south. It would have been absurd for, say, the Aztec to try to raid Michigan - completely impractical. But trade along that route is entirely feasible.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    The simplest solution is usually the best

    Oh dear, have the self proclaimed, so called 'paleo-boffins' never heard of Occam's (or as Ireland is involved, O'Ccam's) Razor? Clearly the Irish at the time saw the need to gold plate the VGA, HDMI or DisplayPort cables they used for their monitors. Whereas the Cornish didn't really see the point, cos the evidence of whether gold plated cables are any good or not, is a bit sketchy to say the least. This obviously explains the movement of gold across the Irish / Celtic sea. Sometimes I think that people go out of their way to complicate things.

    1. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      Before gold plating

      There were tin plated cables. They worked OK, but oxidation caused them to get jammed so you could not unplug your expensive kit without breaking it.

      1. h4rm0ny

        Re: Before gold plating

        >>"There were tin plated cables. They worked OK, but oxidation caused them to get jammed so you could not unplug your expensive kit without breaking it."

        Tin plating for cables was later made the standard by the ancient Roman hardware manufacturer Sonyus Profitus for exactly this reason.

  6. Numpty Muppet

    Clearly a transfer of gold to ameliorate the result of a dodgy footie match.

  7. Zog_but_not_the_first


    It was payment for their Guinness account.

  8. Whiskers

    Have comparable provenance tests been made on gold objects found in Cornwall? The Morvah Hoard and the Rillaton Cup for example.

    I suspect that exchanges of fairly meaningless 'diplomatic gifts' would have been as common then as now; if so, then gold objects found in Cornwall probably came from somewhere else.

    1. h4rm0ny

      >>"Have comparable provenance tests been made on gold objects found in Cornwall? The Morvah Hoard and the Rillaton Cup for example."

      No, but a research team from Athens have done parallel tests on marble and found much of it in Britain was taken from Greece. British scientists currently dispute that however.

  9. x 7

    If you have an excess of something, its natural to trade it for something you want. And given the time period that could be many things: copper (to make bronze locally with Cornish tin), cattle, slaves (especially women). The ancient Irish seem to have had a tradition of flogging their womenfolk off - for instance check the origins of the majority of Icelandic females. The x-chromosome is mainly Irish and Scots - not Viking

    However you need to look at the possibility of triangular trade as well - its possible the Mediterranean traders (Phoenicians and others earlier) who purchased the Cornish tin and Irish copper used the Cornish gold as money: obtain it in Cornwall for wine, olive oil, dried fruits, spices, then spend it in Ireland in exchange for Copper, women, wool

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. x 7


        you're correct - I wasn't thinking as I typed, trying to do things too quickly. I did mean the mitochondrial DNA.

        Sorry, stupid mistake.

        As for going voluntarily......I don't think women had that sort of freedom of choice then. They were either slaves, captives or chattels

        1. h4rm0ny

          >>"As for going voluntarily......I don't think women had that sort of freedom of choice then. They were either slaves, captives or chattels"

          Isn't this the pre-Christian Britain of warrior women and Queen Maeve as equal partner to her husband?

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When Irish eyes were glinting... Warble.

  11. This post has been deleted by its author

  12. Nigel 11

    Talk about beeding obvious

    The value and significance placed on gold may have varied from region to region

    And it still does. They're confusing price with value. Today, Gold is globally traded, so its monetary cost is much the same everywhere. But its cultural significance in, say, India, is vastly greater than its present-day significance to white anglos. Which supports its price in currency, globally.

  13. Timmy B

    Something I thought I'd never see...

    The word "Chalcolithic" in a reg article.... The later stone age, copper age and early bronze age are a particular interest to me. Interesting article thanks. Also Paleo-boffin makes me think of Otzi in a lab coat....

  14. Peter Johnston 1

    These boffins assume that just the gold moved about. Perhaps it shows that Cornish people had invaded Ireland. Or that Irish people invaded Cornwall and took back spoils of war. Or a third party raided both, Cornwall first, but met their match in the Irish.

    One of the problems of academia is that they pontificate as if they know, on far too little information.

  15. This post has been deleted by its author

  16. Stephen Samuel

    Cornwall was better at mining?

    Since they were already skilled at mining tin (and probably digging *everywhere* looking for it), going after gold to get even more goods out of the Irish was easier for them than it was for the Irish to find and exploit their own deposits.

    It could have seemed useless fo the Cornwallis, but obviously valuable to the Irish

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