The Bronze Age

Bronze Age jewellery: The Glenisheen gorget.
Around 2000 BC, the Stone Age was ending as new people came to Ireland with tools and weapons made out of a new material: metal. The first metal tools and weapons were made out of copper, but soon people began to mix copper with tin to make a much stronger metal called bronze. This began the Bronze Age in Europe. Bronze Age people settled in Ireland, where they found copper mines they could use to make new things.

When you study the Bronze Age people, you'll be comparing how they lived to how the Mesolithic and Neolithic people lived before them. They all have some things in common, but there are differences each time as newer civilisations discover new things. The Bronze Age people had new ways of cooking, new uses for stones and metal, and even new burial tombs.

What is a fulacht fiadh? Fulachta fiadh? Fulacht fia?
The Bronze Age people would dig a hole in the ground and fill it with water. They lined the hole with flat stones or timber, and would heat large stones in a fire before throwing them into the water to make the water boil. This is what they used to cook food. They called it a "fulacht fiadh" (full-ukt fee-ya), which is an Irish term. Sometimes you might see it spelled differently, for example without the "dh" at the end. That's just another way of spelling it. If you see "fulachta fiadh", that's just the plural, so it means more than one fulacht fiadh.

Continue to The Iron Age.

Go back to First Year.

  • The importance of bronze.
  • Bronze Age life (houses, food, work, etc.)
  • How to use a fulacht fiadh.
  • Burial customs and tombs: cist graves, wedge tombs, standing stones.

Click here for tips and advice in answering exam questions.


1. Name two metal ores used in Ireland during the Bronze Age. (2015 HL, 2010 HL)

2. Explain the following terms relating to ancient Ireland: Torc; Fulachta Fiadh. (2009 HL)

3. How was a fulacht fiadh used?

4. Explain the following terms: cist grave, wedge tombs, standing stones.

    A reconstruction of a Bronze Age house.

    A person living in an ancient civilisation in 

    If you're writing about a person from an ancient civilisation in Ireland, and you don't want to choose the Mesolithic or Neolithic people, you might go with the Bronze Age. If you do, you should follow the same steps that you would if you were writing about the Neolithic, but with a few small changes.

    • You'd still start out by introducing yourself and your people. Where did the Bronze Age people come from? When did they come to Ireland? What made them different? Why was bronze better than stone?
      • Then, you'd talk about your house. Where was it built? What is it made from? What shape was it? What features did it have? (e.g. fences)
        • Then, move on to the kind of work you and your family would do. Just like the Neolithic people, the Bronze Age people were farmers. What tools do you use? What are they made from?
          • Talk about the kind of food you would eat. What food is it? What do you use to prepare it? This is where you would talk about the fulacht fiadh. The more detail you can give about how it was used, the better.
            • You've already talked about how bronze was used for tools and weapons, now you can talk about arts and crafts. Who makes bronze tools and jewellery? What kind of jewellery might you have? If you can answer these questions, you're doing well.
              • Finally, just like with a Neolithic answer, you'd finish with the burial customs. The Bronze Age has three new types of megalithic tomb for you to study: cist graves, wedge tombs and standing stones. You can explain what each of these look like, and how the bodies were buried. If you wanted, you could say you were at a burial recently, so you saw it all in action.

                So, in short...

                1. Introduce yourself and the Bronze Age people, and explain why bronze is better than stone.
                2. Talk about your Bronze Age house.
                3. Talk about the kind of work you would do, and the tools you would use.
                4. Talk about the food you would eat, and how you would prepare it. Make sure to talk about the fulacht fiadh.
                5. Talk about Bronze Age arts and crafts, especially the different types of jewellery.
                6. Finish up with the burial customs and tombs. Explain each tomb.
                Don't talk about...
                • playing games with your brother and sister.
                • the weather.
                • school or homework - the Bronze Age people didn't have schools!
                • the wrong types of tomb - make sure they're the three Bronze Age tombs.
                Making mistakes like those will cost you marks, as the information you write down must be relevant (important). You get 2 marks for every relevant point you make, so try to make sure you have at least 10 relevant points in each answer. The more you have, the less chance you have of losing too many marks if you get anything wrong or mix anything up.

                The Bronze Age - Scoilnet
                Scoilnet have a page about the Bronze Age which has a lot of information about the metalworking they did and the different kinds of jewellery Bronze Age people made. It also asks some questions about the way the Bronze Age people lived that historians and archaeologists still don't know the answer to.

                tRTÉ: Dig It! Ireland - The Bronze Age
                The RTÉ show has its own website, which has information on the different ages in ancient Ireland, as well as the episodes themselves.

                Ask About Ireland: The Bronze Age
                This site has a lot of information for young people about the different stages in Irish history, starting with the Mesolithic and Neolithic people and working forward.