Pages

Irish Treasures

The Gleninsheen Gold Collar, a Bronze Age Treasure

Nearly three thousand years old, the Gleninsheen collar represents one of the great treasures of the Irish Bronze Age. Fashioned out sheet gold and measuring 31 cm across, it is decorated in repoussé ornamentation that utilises beaded and circular motifs to stunning effect.

It was...Read More »


Relic of the True Cross, Waterford City

True Cross Relic Waterford

This relic of the True Cross is associated with Christchurch Cathedral in Waterford city. It consists of a silver, double-armed cross that contains five pieces of cedar wood. On the reverse is...Read More »


Split down the middle: parti-coloured clothes in 14th century Ireland

Geoffrey De Geneville

In the imaginative and engaging Charter Roll room of the Medieval Waterford Museum, I discovered something that I’d never seen before: a fourteenth century illustration of a man dressed from head to toe...Read More »


Beer Money: 13th century tokens from Winetavern Street, Dublin

Dublin tokens (Photo after NMI 1985, Plate 14)

These distinctive pewter tokens were found by Brendán O’Riordáin during his archaeological excavations at Winetavern Street in Dublin. As its name suggests, this street was once famous for its taverns and it is likely that...Read More »


The Domhnach Airgid, an Early Irish Book Shrine

The Domhnach Airgid (silver church) is an ornate shrine, fashioned out of silver and bronze that was intended to hold a sacred text. When opened in the 19th century it was found to contain an ancient copy of the gospels and according to tradition this book was a gift...Read More »


Viking Age Ship Graffiti from Dublin

This piece of Viking Age ship graffiti was identified on a wooden plank that was recovered during an archaeological excavation at Christchurch Place, Dublin. The dig, which was carried under the direction of Breandán Ó Ríordáin, revealed a series of Hibern0-Norse houses, as well as associated features,...Read More »


The Shrine of St. Lachtin's Arm

St. Lachtin’s Arm

Saint Lachtin’s Arm is an important religious relic that was associated with Donoughmore church in Co. Cork. Dating from circa 1120 AD, it was made to encase a human bone, purportedly belonging to Saint...Read More »


A pair of Bronze Age Earrings from Castlerea, Co. Roscommon

The Castlerea Earrings

Although the exact circumstance surrounding the discovery of the Castlerea earrings remains uncertain, it is believed that they were found near the Co. Roscommon town during the 18th century.

Probably dating from the end of...Read More »


Ranvaik's Casket, an ornate shrine stolen during Viking raids on Ireland?

The Copenhagen Shrine

Now housed in the Danish National Museum, this beautiful reliquary of Irish-type was most likely stolen during Viking raids on Ireland or Scotland. It dates from the 8th century AD and is made...Read More »


Bronze Age Gold: Treasures from the National Museum of Ireland

A selection of some of the wonderful Bronze Age treasures which are are currently on display at the National Museum of Ireland, Kildare Street, Dublin.

 1. A Late Bronze Age gold collar from Gleninsheen, Co. Clare, it dates from c. 900-700...Read More »


Henry VIII's Cap of Maintenance, Waterford City

This early 16th century cap of maintenance is thought to be the only item of Henry VIII’s wardrobe that survives. A formal piece of clothing, it was originally worn beneath the royal crown. However, in 1536, Henry VIII sent it to Ireland, along with a ceremonial sword, as a...Read More »


The throne of the quiet man: the Súgán chair

by Alva Mac Gowan.

This chair has a story to tell. Its tightly twisted seat is made from straw woven by the hands of children who could not hear, and so their touch and sight was all the stronger. Its body was carved by the same hands; sensitive...Read More »


A 15th century medicinal recipe from Co. Louth

A late 15th century inscribed slate was discovered at Smarmore church, Co. Louth in 1959 and is now on display at the National Museum of Ireland. It contains a medicinal recipe, most likely for...Read More »


Shrine of the Miosach: An Early Irish Book Shrine

This ornate book shrine comes from Clonmany, Inishowen, Co. Donegal, where the O’Morrison family were its traditional keepers. Associated with Saint Cairneach, the oldest parts of the shrine appear to date from the 11th century AD.

The core of the artefact consists of a single piece of yew wood that...Read More »


A Late Bronze Age gold necklace from Tumna, Co. Roscommon

Tumna gold balls

In 1834 a group of men ‘landing potatoes’ at Tumna, Co. Roscommon discovered a collection of curious gold balls. Dating from the Late Bronze Age, these ancient artefacts had lain hidden in the ground for  nearly 3,000 years. They were hollow...Read More »


A Bronze Age Spindle Whorl from Tipperary

 

This decorated spindle whorl was discovered inside a Late Bronze Age house that was excavated by Bernice Molly at Killmelly, Co. Tipperary (Molloy 2009, 67). Used to make thread, spindle whorls played an important role in textile production. They consist of a perforated disc or spherical object that was...Read More »


The Archer-Butler luck stone

The Archer-Butler luck stone

Originally owned by the Butler family of Granvilla, near Cahir, Co. Tipperary, this small amulet was traditionally used to protect cattle from disease. It consists of a crystal ball weighing c. 200g that is mounted in a decorative bronze frame....Read More »


A Barbary Ape Skull from Navan Fort, Co. Armagh

Barbary ape skull from Navan Fort (after Lynn 2003, p. 49)

Traditionally associated with the kings of Ulster, the great hilltop enclosure of Eamhain Mhacha (Navan Fort), Co. Armagh is an...Read More »


Ireland's Oldest Cannon?

Ireland’s oldest cannon (after McEneaney & Ryan, 2004, p. 113, Photo Terry Murphy)

In 1497, Waterford city was besieged by an army led by Perkin Warbek, a Flemish noble with aspirations to the English crown....Read More »


The Comerford Crown, a Bronze Age gold 'hat' from Tipperary

The Comerford Crown

The Comerford Crown is striking gold artefact, whose origins probably lie in the Late Bronze Age. It was discovered in 1692 in a peat bog at Bearna Eile (The Devil’s Bit), Co. Tipperary. As the picture above shows, it was profusely...Read More »


Five Ancient Musical Instruments from Ireland

Ireland has rich musical heritage and as these instruments illustrate, it dates back many thousands of years.

 

1. The Wicklow Pipes, c. 2200-2000 BC

The Wicklow Pipes in-situ (© MGL)

In 2003 a...Read More »


The Lismore Drinking-Horn Mount

The Lismore drinking-horn mount (British Museum)

This unusual and fantastical beast was discovered in Lismore, Co. Waterford during the 19th century. Fashioned out of bronze, it originally adorned the pointed end of a great drinking-horn. It probably...Read More »


The Irish Rebel and the Ancient Sword

After the Battle of New Ross in 1798 an ancient blade was prised from the hands of a dead rebel fighter. The unnamed warrior had gone to war not with an iron pike like so many of his compatriots, but something much older. He died clasping...Read More »


A Bronze Age Gold Disc from Co. Wexford

The Enniscorthy disc (© Metropolitan Museum)

It often sparks debate on our social media platforms when I share images of Irish artefacts that are housed in foreign museums. Typically people want to know how these objects ended...Read More »


A Pair of Late Bronze Age Gold Bracelets from Co. Offaly

Derrinboy gold armlets

The Derrinboy armlets are a pair of magnificent gold bracelets that were found deep within a County Offaly bog in 1959. Dating from the Late Bronze Age, these precious artefacts formed part...Read More »


A Twelfth Century Hand-Warmer

Image after Armitage, H. 2002, p.129

Dating from the 12th century and decorated in foliate patterns, this small, bronze ball is actually a hand-warmer. Inside the metal sphere, which unscrews into two halves, is an iron cup that held hot charcoal. This clever design...Read More »


The Moylough Belt Shrine

The Moylough Belt Shrine (photo National Museum of Ireland)

Dating from the 8th century AD, the Moylough belt shrine is one of the great treasures of early Ireland. Fashioned out of bronze and silver, it was found in 1945 by Mr John Twomey as...Read More »


The Lisdrumturk Cauldron

The Lisdrumturk Cauldron (© Monaghan County Museum)

Discovered in 1854, by turf-cutters digging in a Co. Monaghan bog, the Lisdrumturk Cauldron is an exceptional example of Late Bronze Age metal-working. It was undoubtedly a high status object and its burial in a bog may be indicative...Read More »


Roman coins from Newgrange

Roman coins from Newgrange (© NMI)

Constructed in the Neolithic, the great  passage tomb at Newgrange appears to have remained a place of spiritual importance long after it’s Stone Age builders had passed away. This is suggested  by pair of gold Roman coins...Read More »


The Ballynolan Thistle Brooch

Ballynogan thistle brooch (© Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Cambridge)

The Ballynolan thistle brooch was found near Pallaskenry, Co. Limerick in 1836. It was discovered by John Kennedy as he cleared stones from the fields near his home....Read More »


The Waterford Knife

The Waterford Knife

The Waterford Knife (After Okasha 1992, p. 522)

The rare and unusual Waterford knife was discovered during an archaeological excavation in the south eastern Irish city. It consists of an iron blade and handle which...Read More »


The Derreen bucket

Derreen Bucket (after Comey 2010, 204)

The elaborate, stave-built Derreen bucket was discovered in a peat bog in Kilmurry parish, Co. Clare in 1938.  It formed part of small hoard of objects that were either hidden or lost in the bog sometime in the...Read More »


A Viking Age toy boat from Dublin

Winetaven Street model boat

This image shows a wooden replica of an ocean-going Viking longboat that was discovered during the National Museum of Ireland’s excavations at Winetavern Street, Dublin. Most likely a toy, the vessel measures approximately 37 cm in length by a maximum...Read More »


The Keshcarrigan bowl

Keshcarrigan bowl by Jane Hawkes (CC)

This beautiful bronze bowl was discovered in 1854 in a river flowing into Lough Scur, which lies just north of Keshcarrigan in Co. Letrim. Iron Age in date and measuring approximately 14 cm in diameter, it may have...Read More »


The Knowth macehead

This stunning flint macehead was found deep within the darkest recesses of the great Neolithic passage tomb at Knowth, Co. Meath. Hidden for millennia, it was discovered in 1982 during an excavation carried out by Dr George Eogan. It is fashioned out a single piece of pale-grey flint, splashed...Read More »


Stolen treasure: The Coggalbeg Hoard

The Coggalbeg hoard (© National Museum of Ireland)

The remarkable tale of the Coggalbeg hoard. This story begins in March 1945 when a Roscommon farmer, Mr Hubert Lannon, was cutting turf on his bog in the west of Ireland.  As he sliced through the...Read More »


The Broighter hoard

The Broighter hoard (National Museum of Ireland)

The remarkable Broighter hoard, arguably the finest treasure trove of the Irish Iron Age, was discovered on a February evening in 1896 by two Derry men, Thomas Nicholl and James Morrow. They had been ploughing a stubble...Read More »


The Aghadoe Crozier

This photo shows the Aghadoe Crozier, a beautiful 12th century artefact found at Aghadoe, County Kerry in 1848. The crozier is intricately carved out of walrus ivory and is decorated in the Viking Urnes style. It also contains some features which are paralleled...Read More »


Facing the past. An anthropomorphic Bronze Age pot from Cork

 

Bronze Age pottery face (after photo by John Sunderland)

An exceptional collection of Bronze Age artefacts was recently found near Mitchelstown in County Cork (Kiely & Sutton 2007). They included a ceramic spoon and three pottery vessels, two of which had distinctly Read More »


Irish bog bodies, some recent discoveries

Another ancient body has just been recovered from the depths of an Irish bog. This time the remains consist of a partial bog body that appears to have been covered in a leather bag (update: the leather bag...Read More »


Mystery artefact sheds new light on Irish Bronze Age weaving

An unusual prehistoric artefact was recovered during the archaeological excavation of one of a pair of Middle Bronze Age structures identified at Knockgraffon, Co. Tipperary (along the N8 Cashel to Mitchelstown Road scheme, see McQuade, Molloy & Moriarty 2009). Each of the structures was defined by a circle of postholes...Read More »


Bog Butter find from Co. Offaly

Two county Co. Offaly men are in the media spotlight this morning after uncovering a large quantity of bog butter. Brian Clancy and his uncle Joe unearthed the find while working at Ballard Bog, near Tullamore, Co. Offaly on Tuesday. The bog butter was found in a...Read More »