Object of the Month, March 2015
LISDD:2006.11 The Lismore Armlet
This object in the Lismore Museum collection is a replica. In 1995, the original was found by Donald MacLean in a pile of building spoil from work at Newfield Farm. Freda MacGregor (now Drysdale) recognised its importance and contacted the National Museum of Scotland. Within a day or two Dr Fraser Hunter, the Museum expert on the Scottish Iron Age, arrived in the island to do a full archaeological survey of the site. In spite of extensive investigations, no related items were uncovered and it was concluded that the armlet had been a single loss or burial, perhaps a votive offering (securing the favour of an Iron Age god). The armlet was declared treasure trove, and added to the National Museum collection, but an exact replica was made and given to CELM.
The Lismore find is described as a massive bronze armlet, made in the Pictish North East of Scotland in the first century AD. Thirty others have been found, mainly in Eastern Scotland; the Lismore armlet and one found in Ireland may be evidence of westwards trading. Most of the massive armlets and associated fine bronze items are in the National or British Museums, although there are two in the museum cabinet of Inveraray Castle.
These armlets were worn on the upper arm of men, apparently a sign of authority or status; the corresponding item for females was a bracelet with animal features. The Lismore example is uniquely small: 90/95 mm diameter, 45 mm high, prompting the idea that it was for a male child or youth, and speculation that this might indicate the fostering of a high-status Pictish youth from the east. The metal is the copper-tin-zinc alloy characteristic of bronze products of the time, and the “trumpet motifs” a development of Celtic La Tène art, which originated in Central Europe. These bronze items represent a high point in metallurgical craft as well as art.
Considering that there are two Iron Age brochs and at least eight duns on Lismore, it is surprising that there have been so few finds on the island from that period.
Source: Hunter F. 2007. New light on Iron Age massive armlets. Proc. Soc. Antiq. Scot. 136, 135-60.