Ancient Bronze Traders
County Waterford's Ancient Bronze Traders
Some big rocks arranged to form short, partly-roofed passages are all that now remain of Count Waterfords three "Passage Tombs", all on hills near Tramore. They are thought to have been made and used in the early Bronze Age.
The Bronze Age is a period that stretched from some time before 2,000 B.C. to about 500 B.C. During that time new technology came to this island that enabled people to make and use bronze tools, which started to take over from the stone tools of the New Stone Age (Neolithic). Bronze is a skilfully alloyed mixture of Copper (which is too soft for making good tools) and Tin (which is rather brittle). The mixture is much more durable than either.
The three tombs are plainer than Passage Tombs elsewhere in Ireland and, when excavated decades ago, they were shown to contain few or no "grave goods". Other Irish Passage tombs do tend to have grave goods and many have beautifully decorated stones opf which the best known are at Newgrange in Co. Meath. The Waterford three are thought to have been built by communities in touch with communities who had plain tombs in Cornwall and on the Scilly Isles. Outside Waterford Passage tombs all occur north of a line from Dublin to Galway.
In 1986, Sean O'Nuallain and Paul Walsh published a paper in the Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society in which they very cautiously wrote: "it is tempting to speculate that Bunmahon Copper and Cornish Tin proved to be reciprocal attractions for both communities." The suggestion is that ancient south-east Waterford looked more to trading partners or relations in Cornwall than to the rest of Ireland.
None of Waterfords three Cornish-like Passage Tombs is easily visited as they are far from roads on their hill tops and there are no very obvious public paths or safe parking. County Waterford has over 2000 archaeological sites and just a few of these are easily accessible.