Penannular armlet

Irish Late Bronze Age
about 800–750 B.C.


Overall: 1.5 x 7 x 5.8 cm (9/16 x 2 3/4 x 2 5/16 in.)

Accession Number


Medium or Technique

Metal; gold

Not On View





Solid tapering curved bar with spreading concave discs at ends. Type 4 penannular according to E.C.R. Armstrong’s catalogue of the collection of the Royal Irish Academy.

This penannular ornament with trumpet-shaped terminals was a popular jewelry form in Bronze Age Ireland. It was used for torques, earrings, bracelets, rings, and dress fasteners, and most examples, including this one, were cast in high-karat gold without decoration.1 Research suggests the gold came from County Wicklow in eastern Ireland, dubbed the El Dorado of western Europe.2 Scholars hypothesize that these ornaments served as emblems of wealth, rank, and authority, and that they may have been deposited in caches as part of a community ritual or ceremony.
Yvonne J. Markowitz, “Irish Late Bronze Age” in Artful Adornments: Jewelry from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston by Yvonne J. Markowitz (Boston: MFA Publications, 2011), 54.


May, 1864, discovered by Augustus Henry Pitt Rivers (b. 1827 - d. 1900) at Ballycotton, near Cloyne, County Cork, Ireland; taken to England and kept at the Pitt Rivers Museum, Farnham, England; 1936, sold by the Pitt Rivers Museum, through John Hunt (b. 1900 - d. 1976), Dublin and London, represented by Goldschmidt Galleries, New York, to William Randolph Hearst (b. 1863 - d. 1951), New York and Los Angeles [see note 1]; July 11, 1939, Hearst sale, Sotheby's, London, lot 362, bought in; 1941, sold by Hearst to Berry-Hill Gallery, New York; 1950, sold by Berry-Hill to the MFA for $500. (Accession Date: January 12, 1950)

[1] The provenance information for MFA object nos. 50.8-50.10 was generously shared and clarified by Brian O'Connell, Shannon Heritage Trust (correspondence of August 13, 2008, in MFA curatorial file). Anthropologist Augustus Henry Pitt Rivers served in the British Army at Cork between 1862 and 1864.

Credit Line

Gift of the Eire Society and Harriet Otis Cruft Fund