Dunaverney flesh-hook

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Dunaverney flesh-hook
Dunaverney flesh-hook.jpg
Dunaverney flesh-hook
Material Bronze
Created late Bronze-age
(1050 BC – 900 BC)[1]
Discovered 1829, Garry Bog, Dunaverney, Co. Antrim
Present location British Museum
Bronze Age

Near East (c. 3300–1200 BC)

Anatolia, Caucasus, Elam, Egypt, Levant, Mesopotamia, Sistan, Canaan
Bronze Age collapse

South Asia (c. 3000–1200 BC)

Ochre Coloured Pottery
Cemetery H

Europe (c. 3200–600 BC)

Aegean, Caucasus, Catacomb culture, Minoan, Srubna culture, Beaker culture, Unetice culture, Tumulus culture, Urnfield culture, Hallstatt culture, Apennine culture, Canegrate culture, Golasecca culture,
Atlantic Bronze Age, Bronze Age Britain, Nordic Bronze Age

China (c. 2000–700 BC)

Erlitou, Erligang

arsenical bronze
writing, literature
sword, chariot

Iron Age

The Dunaverney Flesh-Hook is a sophisticated prehistoric bronze artefact from Prehistoric Ireland, thought to be an item of ceremonial feasting gear, and a symbol of authority. It is believed it was used to remove chunks of meat from a stew in a large cauldron for serving. It dates to the Late Bronze Age, between 1050 and 900 BC. Since 1856, it has been in the British Museum in London.[2]


Along the top of the flesh-hook are five birds, two large ones next to three smaller ones. At the bottom of the shaft, facing the family of five, are two birds. The group of two birds, presumably an adult pair, can be identified as corvids, perhaps ravens, the family of five as swans and cygnets. The two sets of birds seem to invoke opposites: birds of water versus birds of the air; white ranged against black, fecundity as opposed to death (implied by the predatory character of ravens). Perhaps, in the mind of the Bronze Age inhabitants, the two sets of birds denoted a fable of opposites between good and bad. The flesh-hook was originally linked by pieces of oak shaft, only one fragment of which remains extant.


The Dunaverney Flesh-Hook was discovered in 1829 by workmen who were cutting turf at Dunaverney Bog to the north of Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. At the time of its discovery, the Dunaverney Flesh-Hook was unparalleled and for a long time many experts could not agree on its age and function. However, as more examples were found, not only in Ireland and Britain, but along the Atlantic seaboard of the European continent, it became clear from their style, technology and context that they belonged to the Bronze Age and were clearly important instruments used during ceremonial feasts. To this day, the representation of birds seen on the Dunaverney Flesh-Hook remains unique in north-west Europe.[3]

See also[edit]