I can find no evidence that such a suggestion has been made seriously
in recent years. It seems to be based on out-dated ideas or data, as
is presented here:
Ancient Ireland - Prehistory, Archaeology, Paleogeography, ...
"About 2150 bc the "Bell-Beaker" culture, named for the bell-shaped
vessels they left behind, began to make an appearance in Ireland. The
culture is known as one of more technologically advanced people, who
made and used metal and finely polished stone tools."
This suggestion's viability appears to rely wholly on the willingness
and the ability of one to dispute the currently accepted dates that
establish Beaker culture and the earliest copper mining operations in
Ireland as contemporaneous. If, for example, one were to accept a
relatively late (now known to be erroneous) date for the beginning of
the Beaker culture (i.e., 2150 B.C., as above) and the established
date for the earliest copper mining (ca. 2400 B.C.), then one could
argue that metallurgy predated Beaker culture. However, as the
ceramic, stratigraphic, and radiocarbon dating for the earliest copper
mining all unequivocally identify Beaker culture as extant at the site
at 2400 B.C., the late date for Beaker culture falls away, leaving no
support for the suggestion that metallurgy predates Beaker. As there
does not appear to be any controversy about, or dispute of, the dates
as currently accepted, the suggestion is not viable.
CHRONOLOGY OF IRISH MINING and METALLURGY
British Archaeology, no 56, December 2000: Features
"This notion of a mass movement of people, even an invasion, found
support elsewhere in the archaeological record. The arrival of
metallurgy was not the only big change taking place in the middle of
the 3rd millennium, but the period also saw the appearance of beaker
pottery in the British Isles. These highly distinctive vessels, often
buried with the dead, were widespread in central Europe and Iberia
before they were used in Ireland. Was there a link?
Today, there is some reluctance to see the arrival of a new pottery
form, however distinctive and ubiquitous, as necessarily a sign of the
arrival of a new population of immigrants. New artefacts and burial
practices can, after all, simply reflect changing ideas or trade,
which was well-established along the Atlantic seabord in this period.
But the idea of a Beaker Culture, with its distinctive pottery,
funerary practices, flint arrows and established tradition of metal
making, is hard to cast off.
Not many years ago, this would have been about as close as it was
possible to get to meeting the metal makers who brought metallurgy to
the British Isles and launched the Age of Bronze. But now our
understanding is being transformed by a combination of archaeological
research on the ground and scientific investigation in the laboratory.
When the notion of the Beaker inspired birth of Irish metallurgy was
first aired, there was no evidence for prehistoric mining in that
country. Proponents of the theory pointed to geological data for the
occurrence of `fahlerz' ores in the region, linked, they said, to the
distinctive arsenic-rich Munster axes. However, when prehistoric mines
were identified in the 1960s at Mount Gabriel on the Mizen Peninsular
on the far south-west of Co Cork, they were a miserable affair indeed
- shallow scrapings on the hillside devoted to the recovery of ore
which was almost devoid of copper and without arsenic. It seemed an
unlikely base for production on the scale suggested by multitudes of
The breakthrough came in the 1990s with the excavation of the earliest
prehistoric copper mine yet discovered in the British Isles. At Ross
Island, on the eastern edge of Lough Leane in Co Kerry, the
archaeologists struck lucky. The site had been worked for copper in
the early 19th century and the miners had found older workings.
Systematic excavation and radiocarbon dating now show that the
earliest of these date to the mid-3rd millennium.
Moreover, Ross Island is unique in preserving not just the mine
itself, but also the miners' work camp in an area of huts and ore
processing installations immediately adjacent to the workings. Among
the shelters, animal bone food waste and worked flint, were numerous
early Beaker sherds confirming the long-suspected link between the
users of the distinctive pottery and the mining of metal. Equally
striking was the ore itself, not the low-grade copper of Mount
Gabriel, but rich arsenic-bearing sulphide ores of the fahlerz type.
From a single site all the theories could be confirmed."
National University of Ireland Galway
Ross Island Project
In Search of the Early Miners
"The initial focus of excavation was a large cave-like opening in the
Western Mine area. Investigation here of broken rock deposits and
discarded tools reveals the techniques used by the early miners. The
discovery of an adjacent work camp provides an insight into the
organisation of this activity and the production of copper metal.
Radiocarbon dates now place the early phase of mining between
2400-1800 BC, making Ross Island the oldest copper mine presently
known in Ireland or Britain."
Ore to Metal
"The beginning of the Irish Bronze Age was marked by several centuries
of unalloyed copper production, contemporary with the use of Beaker
pottery between 2400-2200 BC. This early copper metallurgy is
associated with an arsenic-rich metal used to make axeheads and
blades. These objects achieved a wide circulation across Ireland in
this period, with some supply into western Britain where they
contributed to the spread of metallurgy there.
Ross Island provides important new evidence for the extraction and
processing of copper minerals at the dawn of insular metallurgy. This
is the first copper mine which can be linked directly to the users of
Beaker pottery, believed to have been the earliest metallurgists in
EXCAVATION REPORTS - SUMMARIES
Searchable database of Irish excavation reports
OTHER WEB RESOURCES
The British bronze age (2750 BC- 700 BC)
In Search of Ancient Ireland . Technology | PBS
Bronze Age Copper Mining in Britain and Ireland, O'Brien, William.
Shire Archaeology. Princes Risborough, 64pp.
"The knowledge of metallurgy, first developed in the Near East, spread
to most parts of Europe by 2000 BC. This book examines the
distribution of sites and their geological background. All aspects of
early mining technology are covered, from the initial discovery of
copper minerals to their extraction and concentration using primitive
techniques. It considers the daily life of the miners, the dangers
they faced, their settlement background and ritual beliefs. Recent
research on the most important sites, some of which can be visited
today, is contained here . William O'Brien is currently working on an
investigation of the important Beaker copper mine at Ross Island, Co.
Kerry. He lectures on prehistory and field archaeology in University
National University of Ireland Galway Archaeology Department Staff
The archaeological evidence as it is now known conclusively links
Beaker culture to the first metallurgy in Ireland around 2400 B.C.
Ireland bronze age
Ireland copper age
Ireland beaker culture
Ireland metallurgy earliest
Ross Island copper