Early Medieval Period

Motif piece or trial piece, 7th - 9th Century A.D.

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This motif

Bone motif piece, Doey, Co Donegal

This motif or trial piece is decorated with incised patterns cut in high relief including a distinctive running spiral motif typical of early historic period ornamentation

  or trial piece is made from antler and was discovered during archaeological excavations at a sandhills settlement and metalworking site on the west coast of Donegal. Many other objects of the early medieval period associated with metalworking were discovered at this coastal site during the summer of 1959.

The decoration may represent preliminary sketches made by craftsmen who were experimenting with design and layout prior to executing them finally in precious metal or bronze.

It is also possible that models for the production of clay moulds for bronze casting might have been produced from a piece such as this.

The ornamentation is cut in high relief in what is known as kerbschnitt technique. The motifs include triple spirals, lozenges and hexafoils, mostly incorporated into rectangular panels. This arrangement of patterns is in keeping with an early historic period date, probably some time between the 7th and 9th centuries AD.

Trial or motif pieces are found mainly at sites of the early historic period and from Viking period Dublin. Other examples of motif pieces from Waterford and Dublin also feature on this site.

They may also have been used in the training of apprentices. It is possible that clay moulds for casting may have been prepared from them. Large quantities of moulds and other types of debris from bronze casting were also found at this excavation site at Dooey, Co Donegal.

This object may be viewed in the Treasury, National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

Motif piece or trial piece, Shandon

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This piece

Bone motif piece, Dungarvan, Co Waterford

Trial or motif piece found during quarrying at Shandon, Dungarvan, Co Waterford. The piece, a sheep's long bone, was deliberately cut to provide for flat surfaces for decoration. Like the other motif pieces featured on this site, it is likely to have been used as a kind of medieval period sketch pad by a metalworker or his apprentice. The decoration includes interlace and animal ornament of a type also found on stone crosses as well as in metal

Copyright: National Museum of Ireland

 was discovered in 1917 during work at Shandon quarry near Dungarvan, Co Waterford. A wide variety of objects dating to different periods has been found in the area around this quarry.

Like the other motif or trial pieces featured on this site, it is thought that these objects may have been a sort of 'sketch pad' used by craftsmen and their apprentices to experiment with design and layout before transferring their work to precious metal.

Some examples may also have been used for the production of models and clay moulds for bronze casting.

This piece consists of a fragment of a long bone from a sheep which had been cut to give four flat surfaces suitable for carving. The patterns consist of a series of designs typical of the 10th to 11th centuries AD. They include animal patterns, interlace and knotwork
There are also strong indications of Viking influence apparent on this piece.

For example the fleur de lis seen here between the bodies of two animals, occurs quite frequently on metalwork of the Viking period. A similarly decorated trial piece was found during the excavations at York.

There are also comparisons between the ornament on this piece and that on other major objects of the medieval period, for example a book shrine called the Soiscél Molaise and the medieval period crozier from Kells, Co Meath.

Brooch, Cormeen, Circa 9th century A.D.

This brooch is a fine example of the ring brooches that became popular during the ninth century. It is a cast bronze brooch consists of a decorated ring portion hinged upon a bronze pin. It terminates at the pinhead in a human face with long hair curled at the ends.

The ring is decorated with what is known as imitation kerbschnitt (chip carving) interlace produced as a result of casting in a clay mould rather than as a result of carving directly on the metal. Two amber studs survive, one on either side of the wide decorative field on the lower part of the brooch ring. There is also an empty setting for a third amber stud at the centre of the brooch ring.

A loop projects from the lower edge of the ring at the centre which may have been used in conjunction with a thong or chain to help secure the brooch to a cloak or other garment.

Human representations on brooches are quite rare however and therefore, this example is of particular interest.

This brooch may be seen as a more modest example of the larger and more ornate pseudo-penannular brooches of this period and like them, it did not function as a locking device. The broad ring areas of both brooch types seem to have been intended as fields for decoration rather than the functional role of the zoomorphic penannular brooches of the seventh century.

Brooch, Knockast

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