gold dot

The Gold lunula (plural: lunulae) is a distinctive type of late Neolithic, Chalcolithic or (most often) early Bronze Age necklace or collar shaped like a crescent moon. They are normally flat and thin, with roundish spatulate terminals that are often twisted to 45 to 90 degrees from the plane of the body. Gold lunulae fall into three distinct groups, termed Classical, Unaccomplished and Provincial by archaeologists. Most have been found in Ireland, but there are moderate numbers in other parts of Europe as well, from Great Britain to areas of the continent fairly near the Atlantic coasts. Although no lunula has been directly dated, from associations with other artefacts it is thought they were being made sometime in the period between 2200–2000 BC; a wooden box associated with one Irish find has recently given a radiocarbon dating range of 2460–2040 BC.
Of the more than a hundred gold lunulae known from Western Europe, more than eighty are from Ireland; it is possible they were all the work of a handful of expert goldsmiths, though the three groups are presumed to have had different creators. Several examples have a heavily crinkled appearance suggesting that they had been rolled up at some point. One Irish example, from Ballinagroun, has had its original Classical engraved decoration beaten over to erase it (not quite successfully), and then a new Unaccomplished scheme added (see below for these classifications). This and the fact that it had been folded over several times suggest that it had been in use for a long time before it was deposited. The first two examples illustrated show roughly the range of widths of the lowest part of the lunula that is found. Finds in graves are rare, perhaps suggesting they were regarded as clan or group property rather than personal possessions, and though some were found in bogs, perhaps suggesting ritual deposits, more were found on higher ground, often under standing stones.
Most gold lunulae have decorative patterns very much resembling beaker pottery from roughly the same period, using geometrical patterns made up of straight lines, with zig-zags and criss-cross patterns, and many different axes of symmetry. The curving edges of the lunula are generally followed by curving border-lines, often with decoration between them. The decoration is typically most dense at the tips and edges, and the broad lower central area is often undecorated between the borders. The decoration also resembles that on amber and jet spacer necklaces, which are thought to be slightly later in date.

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