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9,000 Years Of History
National Museum of Ireland (Dublin)
Member Name: kenjohn
National Museum of Ireland (Dublin)
Date: 22/05/01, updated on 01/02/02 (1005 review reads)
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It is in fact split into two buildings. The main building, on Kildare St., houses the Antiquities and Industry sections, while the Natural History Museum is located at Leinster Lawn on Merrion Row.
The Natural History Museum actually merits an opinion of its own, and here I will concentrate solely on the main Museum in Kildare Street.
The various exhibitions at the Museum are both extremely interesting and varied, many dating back thousands of years, and I hope that here I will be able to give you just a little insight into the many thousands of antiquities and artefacts that are on display.
Viking Age Ireland
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~ ~ This is a fascinating collection of Viking artefacts dating from the time the country was inhabited by the Norsemen, from about 800 – 1200 AD.
During the 1980’s a complete Viking village was unearthed at Wood Quay, while excavations were taking place to lay the foundations for the new Dublin Corporation headquarters.
This is the area between Christchurch Cathedral and the River Liffey, and it is thought that this village, which was remarkably preserved, was one of the very earliest Viking settlements in Ireland.
The government of the day didn’t see fit to save this unbelievable archaeological treasure, (to their eternal discredit!) which was one of the best examples of its kind in the world, but at least building was halted for long enough to allow most of the ancient relics to be removed, and it is these relics that form the foundation of the exhibition.
For a fuller appreciation of Dublin's Viking past, you should also pay a visit to “Dublinia”, which is a small replica of the actual village, located at St. Michael's Hill, beside Christchurch Cathedral.
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~ ~ By far the most popular attraction at the Museum is the Treasury, where Bronze and Iron Age Gold objects may be seen.
This collection was started as long ago as the late 1700’s by the Royal Irish Academy, and even to the present day finds continue to be discovered.
During the 1980’s, a new discovery was unearthed called the “Derrynaflan Hoard” at an ancient monastery near Killenaule in Co. Tipperary, and more recently still yet another find was made in Co. Meath called the “Donore Hoard”, that consists of two bronze discs and a cast bronze handle in the form of an animal head with a ring grasped in its jaw.
In truth, it is still a bit of a mystery where Ireland’s gold actually came from, but it is known that copper, bronze and gold were all being worked here as early as 2000 BC.
Early metalworkers shaped gold into very thin discs or crescent shapes known as “lunalae”, and then decorated them using a raised pattern technique.
This method of gold manufacture was in common usage until about 1,000 BC, when a method of forming the gold into bars and strips was discovered, that then allowed it to be formed into “torcs”, (neck ornaments) earrings and even armbands.
Later still, gold wire and foil were cast to produce jewellery and items such as dress fasteners.
Most of the hoards discovered in Ireland were not uncovered as a result of archaeological expeditions, but by accident. Farmers ploughing their fields and cutting turf (peat) for their fires, and people quarrying for building materials, quite often found these treasures buried in the peaty soil, which is well known for its preservative qualities.
The very earliest finds were made in the 17th century, when a total of four hoards were uncovered in a bog near Cullen in Co. Tipperary. Greed got the better of the finders, however, and sadly the biggest part of these finds was melted down.
A few artefacts still remain on view at the Museum.
~ ~ One of the most magnificent objects on display is the “Ardagh Chalice”.
This is a solid silver bowl used to dispense wine at Mass that was found in Co. Limerick in 1868, where it was thought to have been hidden during the 10th century, during a time of the many religious persecutions of Roman Catholics in the area.
Perhaps the most famous of all is the “Tara Brooch”, because of the thousands and thousands of replicas that abound in gift shops and jewellers both in Ireland and throughout the world.
This famous brooch was made out of gold wire and strips, and was used to fasten cloaks from as long ago as the Iron Age right up until Medieval times.
~ ~ These are only a few of the dozens and dozens of fascinating gold hoards that are on display at the Museum.
Others include such treasures as the “Broighter Hoard”, discovered in 1896 by a Co. Derry ploughman, which is a range of first century gold objects that includes a very large gold collar, the standard of workmanship of which surpasses anything in the whole of Europe.
Then there is the “Gleninsheen Gorget”, a magnificent gold collar discovered by workmen in Co.Clare in 1932, that dates back to between 700 – 800 BC.
"St. Patrick's Bell and Shrine" dates from the fifth century, and the myth is perpetuated that it belonged to the patron Saint of Ireland himself. It was discovered in Co. Armagh and carried off to France by a Norman Baron where it remained for many years before finding its way back into the hands of an old Irish family called Mulholland, who bequeathed it to the State.
"The Cross of Kong" is a 12th century cross fashioned out of bronze, wood, and silver, and is said to have been specially designed to hold a relic of the actual true cross which had been presented to the then King of Connaught by Pope Calixtus the Secon
d in 1123. The relic it was designed to contain has unfortunately long since disappeared.
~ ~ Ireland in Medieval times was a centre of religious activity, and it is fortunate indeed that so many of these priceless remains have been discovered and found for future generations to come and wonder over.
Much of the ancient art is as beautiful today as when it was first discovered.
The Road to Independence
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~ ~ This is yet another permanent exhibition at the Museum, which deals with the countries history in the period 1916 – 1921, when the fight to free Ireland from British rule was at its height.
Many readers will have seen the film “Michael Collins” in recent times. Here at the Museum you can actually view many items of interest relating to this Irish hero, who along with Eamonn De Valera was a co-founder of the Irish State.
As well as his greatcoat and a cap, there is an actual death mask of both himself and one of his leuitenants, Terence MacSwiney, cast shortly after their assassinations during the Irish Civil War that followed the Declaration of Independence.
There are many papers and documents, uniforms, and a selection of the actual weapons and firearms used during the famous stance taken by the Irish Republicans in the GPO during the Easter Rising of 1916.
If you combine this visit with a tour round the old prison at Kilmainham Gaol, where many of the old Republicans were executed by firing squad, this should leave you with a far greater understanding of this vital period in Irish history.
~ ~ The National Museum is open every day except Monday from 10.00AM until 5.00PM, and on a Sunday afternoon from 2.00PM to 5.00PM.
There is a gift and souveneir shop where you can buy books and memerobilia relating to the many exhibits, and the Museum is fully geared to deal with wheelchairs.
Admission is free, however, for €1.30 you may have a guided t
Do give this place a visit next time you visit Dublin.
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