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The Dunaverney flesh-hook is a highly ornate bronze artefact, thought by some to be a ceremonial 'flesh-hook' for prodding or goading animals. It dates from between 1050 and 900 BC, firmly within the Late Bronze Age. At the top of the artefact are a family of five birds, two larger birds followed by three smaller ones. At the bottom of the shaft are two birds. The two sets of birds could not be more different from one another. The group of two birds, presumably an adult pair, can be identified as corvids, perhaps ravens, the family of five as swans and cygnets. Instantly they invoke opposites: birds of water versus birds of the air; white ranged against black, fecundity as opposed to death implied by predatory character, birds of home territory versus those of wild places. It is easy with modern eyes to equate these qualities overall with the forces of good and evil.
The Dunaverney flesh-hook was discovered in 1829 by people who were cutting turf at Dunaverney Bog to the north of Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, Northern Ireland. Antiquarians at that time knew of no parallel and struggled for the rest of the nineteenth century to understand its age and function. However, over time more examples were found, not only in Ireland and Britain, but also along the Atlantic seaboard of the European continent and it became clear from their style, technology and contexts that they belonged to the Bronze Age. To this day the representation of birds seen on the Dunaverney flesh-hook remains unique in north-west Europe.
The Dunaverney flesh-hook is a unique symbol of authority from the Bronze Age. It is held by the British Museum.