Meet the Beaker People

The first metal objects began to be made in Ireland form around the middle of the third millennium BC, from approximately 2500 BC onwards. This coincides with a particular sort of material culture, that includes evidence of archery and a particular sort of pottery vessel known as Beakers, as well as the first copper and gold objects. These artefacts are found elsewhere in Europe, and the prevalence and distinctive nature of the pottery has led to it being known as the Beaker Period or the Beaker Phenomenon. But are these objects evidence of people from outside moving into Ireland?  If so, who were the Beaker People? And just how far does technology change culture?

In this episode of the Amplify Archaeology Podcast Neil had the opportunity to discuss the Beaker People with Dr. Neil Carlin of UCD School of Archaeology, who has recently produced a superb publication on the Beaker People for Sidestone Press. The book uses an innovative approach that reassesses some of the assumptions we have about the Beaker People, by interlinking the study of the famous Beaker pottery and other artefacts with the context of their discovery to better understand social practices within settlements, funerary monuments, ceremonial settings and natural places. It also places the Irish evidence of the Beaker People in its international context. The publication: ‘The Beaker Phenomenon? Understanding the Character and Context of Social Practices in Ireland 2500–2000 BC’ is available from Sidestone Press, and thanks to the generosity of Neil and Sidestone Press it can be read online for free from this link.

 Episode 6 Beaker People – Show Notes

  • I can’t recommend Neil’s book The Beaker Phenomenon? highly enough, it really is worth checking out – and you can read it online for free!
  • As Neil says at the end of the podcast, one of the best places to get a glimpse into the material culture of the Beaker People is in our wonderful (and free) National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street. There you can find examples of the Beaker pottery, the wonderful archer’s wristguards and of course the beautiful, blingy, gold!
  • Speaking of the National Museum and gold, no-one understands it better than Mary Cahill, former Keeper of Irish Antiquities National Museum of Ireland. Mary has numerous articles about Ireland’s gold, including this one about sun symbolism on gold discs and lunalae from Archaeology Ireland that you can read on
  • For more insight on those beautiful archer’s wrist bracers that are such an identifier of the Beaker People see Bracers or Bracelets? About the functionality and meaning of Bell Beaker Wrist-guards by Maikel Kuijpers and Harry Fokkens.

Amplify Archaeology Podcast

During this podcast series we will meet some of Ireland’s archaeologists to discuss the key periods, places and people that tell the story of Ireland, and we’ll gain new insights into the practice and techniques of modern Irish archaeology.  This is the sixth instalment of Amplify Archaeology, previous episodes have featured discussions on the History of Food, Passage TombsCastles, Mesolithic Ireland and Glendalough.

I’d love some feedback, so please do leave a comment below – and if you have any questions about Irish archaeology please do let me know, we can try to answer them in forthcoming episodes.  Finally if you enjoyed this podcast I’d be really grateful if you could leave us a review on iTunes, or please share it and tell your friends.

The podcast is an Abarta Heritage production.  It was recorded on location by Neil Jackman (the interviewer), with Dr Neil Carlin.  We are so grateful to Neil for his generosity with his time and insights.