Gold lunula

Gold lunula

Gold lunula (plural: lunulae) is the term used to describe a distinctive type of early Bronze Age necklace shaped like a crescent moon. Gold Lunula are found most commonly in Ireland, but there are moderate numbers in other parts of Europe as well, particularly Great Britain. Although no lunula has been directly dated, from associations with other artefacts it is thought they were being made sometime in the period between 2200-2000BC (Needham 1996, 124). Less than two hundred gold lunulae are known and it is possible they were all the work of a handful of experts.

The most telling lunulae discovered were from Kerivoa, Brittany. Here three lunulae were discovered in the remains of a box with some sheet gold and a rod of gold. The rod had its terminals hammered flat in the manor of the lunuae. From this it is thought that Lunulae were made by hammering a rod of gold flat so it became sheet-like and fitted the desired shape. Decoration was then applied by impressing designs with a stylus. The stylus used often leaves tell-tale impressions on the surface of the gold and it is thought that all the lunulae from Kerivoa, and another two from Saint-Potan, Brittany and Harlyn Bay, Cornwall were all made with the same tool. This suggests that all five lunulae were the work of one craftsperson and the contents of the Kerivoa box their tools of trade.

Gold lunulae have decorative patterns very much resembling contemporary beaker pottery. They also resemble amber and jet spacer necklaces, which are thought to be slightly later in date. The ideology associated with this type of pattern is unknown. Equally the ideological link between the different materials these necklaces were made of remains a mystery.


*Needham, S. 1996. “Chronology and Periodisation in the British Bronze Age” in "Acta Archaeologica" 67, pp121-140.
*Taylor, J.J. 1968. “Early Bronze Age Gold Neck-Rings in Western Europe” in "Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society" 34, pp259-266
*Taylor, J.J. 1970. “Lunulae Reconsidered” in "Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society" 36, pp38-81

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