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Crotal bell.jpg
Crotal bell from Panama, gold, 6th-10th century
Crotal bell drawing.png

Crotal bells (Greek 'crotalon' - castanet or rattle) are various types of small bells or rattles. They were produced in various Pre-Columbian cultures. In Europe they were made from probably before the early middle ages and though many founders cast bells of this type, the Robert Wells bell foundry of Aldbourne, Wiltshire produced the largest range. The first medieval designs came in two separate halves into which a metal pea was introduced and the two halves were then soldered or crimped together. Somewhere around 1400 they were cast in a single piece with a ball of metal inside. [1]

Crotal bells, also known as rumble bells, were used on horse-drawn vehicles before motorised vehicles were common. They were often made of bronze with a slot cut down the side. These bells were used to warn other horse-drawn vehicle users (mostly on country roads) that another vehicle was approaching. They came in many sizes, from a small 1-inch version to bells that were many inches across - the older ones were forged while others were cast. They were either hung on a small leather-and-iron harness bracket above the horse's collar on smaller vehicles. On larger vehicles, such as delivery wagons, they were driven into the wooden frame of the wagon.

Bronze Age crotals[edit]

A different form of crotal is found in Prehistoric Ireland. The National Museum of Ireland and British Museum have several examples on display dating from the late Bronze Age (800 – 800 BC) which were found in the Dowris Hoard, alongside various brass wind instruments. These are bronze cylinders in the rough shape of a bull's testicle, with a piece of baked clay or a pebble inside. It is presumed they functioned as a type of rattle. The hoard had 48 of them in total, in two sizes. Only two other examples are known, both Irish.[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.bbc.co.uk/ahistoryoftheworld/objects/nictdQS0TayEgPCH-vq3FA
  2. ^ Wallace, Patrick F., O'Floinn, Raghnall eds. Treasures of the National Museum of Ireland: Irish Antiquities, 2002, Gill & Macmillan, Dublin, ISBN 0717128296

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crotal_bell — Please support Wikipedia.
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5 news items

Daily Mail

Daily Mail
Wed, 15 Jul 2015 06:43:11 -0700

The home of a retired teacher is at the centre of an archaeological dig after the ruins of a 13th Century chapel were found beneath her front garden. Mary Hudd uncovered some strange brickwork beneath the lawn of her home in Wiltshire during the ...


Thu, 17 Jun 2010 11:23:07 -0700

The small, round bell pictured here is referred to as a “crotal” bell. Its style dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. This particular one, made of bronze, dates to the late 18th century, bears the initials of the maker — “L A” — and is ...


Wed, 15 Oct 2014 20:22:33 -0700

But enough digressions about metal detecting — or before you know it, I'll be telling you about the fibula brooch I found the other day, and maybe even the crotal bell, and don't get me started on the strange crescent bronze thing with pockmarks on ...

Sevenoaks Chronicle

Sevenoaks Chronicle
Sat, 31 Jan 2015 02:58:12 -0800

"I've been concentrating my last few searches around this area and the crotal bell (often attached to carts or cattle) and brooch suggest the area adjacent to this track was an area through which people passed." He added: "You get an amazing amount of ...

St Helens Star

St Helens Star
Thu, 14 Aug 2014 10:11:49 -0700

Bell_Ray_Waring_ip4814 Inglenook Farm, Rainford bypass Description:Metal detector man and his find Contact name:Ray Waring Contact phone:01744 885547 Details:Ray Waring with his Crotal Bell which he found with detector. Pic of him holding metal ...

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