Historic Tales

16th century images of Irish people

A collection of images depicting 16th century Irish people. Although the majority of figures illustrated are soldiers and warriors, there are also some fine pictures of women, especially by the Flemish artist, Lucas d’Heere. 

‘Irish as they stand accoutred being at...Read More »


Some Irish words with Norse Origins

The year 795 AD  saw a new force arrive on the Irish political scene, the Vikings. These seaborne warriors were to have a significant impact on Irish life. Their attacks on religious centres...Read More »


A Satirical Chamberpot from 18th century Dublin

In the late 18th century an English writer, Richard Twiss caused consternation in Ireland when his book, ‘A Tour in Ireland in 1775‘, was published. It painted the country and its inhabitants in a very poor light and was widely condemned by the Irish public....Read More »


The River Liffey, its ancient name

Although now called the Liffey[i], in ancient times Dublin’s famous river was known by a different name, An Ruirthech. This loosely translates as ‘the stampeding one’[ii], a name which reflected the watercourse’s...Read More »


Pangúr Bán

Pangúr Bán is probably the most famous surviving poem from Early Ireland[i]. Composed by an Irish monk sometime around the 9th century AD, the text compares the scholar’s work with the activities of a pet cat, Pangúr Bán. It is now preserved in the Reichnenau Primer at St....Read More »


The Curious Tale of the Mouse, the Skull and the Saint's Curse

Clonmacnoise today (source)

In 1070 AD[i] the forces of Turlough O’Brien (Toirdhealbhach Ua Briain), king of Munster, raided the great monastery at Clonmacnoise in Co. Offaly[ii].  The target of their attack, however, was not...Read More »


Sacred Trees in Early Ireland

I recently described how the forces of Brian Bóruma, king of Munster, attacked and destroyed a sacred grove of trees  belonging to the Vikings of Dublin. This wood appears to have been associated with Thor, the Viking god of thunder, and its destruction by Brian Bóruma was...Read More »


16th century Irish Hipsters


I recently spotted what appeared to be remarkably modern looking haircuts in Albrecht Druer’s woodcut of 1521 AD[i]. This image shows a group of Irish soldiers[ii], most likely mercenaries, who were fighting on the European continent during the early 1520s. I soon...Read More »


Braigetóir: An Unusual Medieval Jester

In medieval Ireland there was a jester known as Braigetóir[i]. How did his entertain his lord? By passing wind, the man was a professional farter[ii].



[i] O’Kelly, F. 2005. A Guide to Early Irish Law. Dublin Institute...Read More »


Thor's Wood, a sacred grove near Viking Age Dublin?

In late December 999 AD Brian Bóruma, king of Munster, decisively defeated the Viking’s of Dublin[i] at the battle of Glen Máma[ii]. This bloody contest was a severe set-back for the Hiberno-Norse...Read More »


Treasure into ashes: A 19th century cist burial discovery

A cist and urn burial (courtesy of Know Thy Place)

I recently came across an interesting 19th century account describing the discovery of a Bronze Age cist burial at Mullaun, Co. Wexford. Written by George Henry Kinahan, a...Read More »


Old photos of Ireland, Series 2

This is the second in our series of old photos of Ireland taken from the Library of Congress Collections.  The images, which date from between 1890 and 1900, give a glimpse of how Ireland looked on the cusp of the twentieth century. The first series of photos can be...Read More »


Dublin's Medieval High Cross

Market Cross, High Street, Dublin (Source: UCD Library, see References)

This image shows Dublin city’s medieval ‘High Cross’ as drawn by John Simons in 1784. The panels on the shaft contain scenes of the Crucifixion, Descent from the Cross and the Passion.  It formerly stood...Read More »


Photos of Ireland in the 1930s: The past is a foreign country

This amazing collection of colourised photographs was taken by an American photographer Branson DeCou (1892-1941) between 1932 and 1935.  DeCou spent nearly thirty years travelling the world and his images of Ireland give us a rare glimpse into a way of life that has long since disappeared. His fantastic catalogue of photos is...Read More »


The death of an elephant, Dublin, 1681

I stumbled across a curious 17th century account of an elephant in Dublin city recently. Yes, you read right, an elephant. This exotic import was owned by a Mr Wilkins who kept it in a specially constructed ‘booth’ near the Custom House on Parliament Street/Essex Street. Here members of the...Read More »


Early photos of Ireland's iconic heritage sites

This fantastic collection of old photographs documents some of Ireland’s most iconic archaeological and heritage sites. The photographs date from between 1890 and 1900 and are from the Library of Congress Collections.

1. Glendalough, Co. Wicklow: Founded by St. Kevin in the...Read More »


Hurling, its ancient history

A history of hurling. On the weekend of the All-Ireland hurling final it seems only fitting that the history of Ireland’s national game are discussed. Hurling is arguably the fastest field sport in the world and quite possibly the oldest. It is played with sticks called...Read More »


Bones of the Vikings: when raiding goes wrong

The ninth and tenth centuries saw the arrival of a new force on the Irish political scene, the Vikings. These Scandinavian warriors were attracted by the wealth of the Irish monasteries and they came in search of booty and glory. The initial attacks were mainly confined to the...Read More »


Mayday and the Celtic festival of Bealtaine

In Ireland Mayday is surrounded by a rich folklore tradition, most of which dates from 19th century. These beliefs give an insight into the mindset of a earlier, more rural Ireland where the spirit world and superstition still prevailed.  While archaeologists are mainly concerned with the physical remains...Read More »


16th century Irish Hipsters

I recently spotted what appeared to be remarkably modern looking haircuts in Albrecht Druer’s woodcut of 1521 AD[i]. This image […]

Through the millennia: Irish Archaeology in photos

Here is another selection of  amazing images from our Photography Competition, this time spanning the entire breadth of Irish archaeology. Don’t […]

A Mesolithic cemetery: Ireland’s oldest burials

  On a bend of the River Shannon, Ireland’s largest watercourse, a small band of hunter-gathers came to together nearly […]

Images of Newgrange through the ages

The Neolithic  passage tomb at Newgrange is the most visited archaeological site in Ireland. Over 5000 years old it pre-dates the first phase of […]

The Broighter hoard

The remarkable Broighter hoard, arguably the finest treasure trove of the Irish Iron Age, was discovered on a February evening […]

The Oseberg Viking ship burial

  In 1904 a remarkable archaeological site was uncovered at Oseberg, Norway. It consisted of an astonishingly well-preserved Viking ship […]