National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology
One of the National Museum of Ireland’s four branches, the National Museum: Archaeology opened in 1890 in Kildare Street, Dublin, and apart from the range of objects on display that help to uncover Ireland’s rich history and culture, the ornate building itself is a sight to behold.
With columns made from marble quarried around Ireland and mosaic floors portraying scenes from classical mythology, visitors often appreciate the fine surroundings as well as what is on display.
The popular Viking Ireland exhibition sheds light on the impact the Vikings had from 800AD to 1150AD. Dublin is one of the best-preserved Viking sites in the world and excavations have produced many interesting finds, from weapons and jewellery to coins, toys and everyday items. The capital became one of the early fortified bases and other Viking towns included Waterford, Limerick, Cork and Wexford.
A bog body is the name for preserved human remains found in a peat wetland and lends a fascinating insight into our past. In 2011, the oldest bog body in Ireland was discovered in Cashel, County Laois. Known as Cashel Man, by using radiocarbon dating it was found that he lived and died in the Early Bronze Age around 2000 BC.
The Treasury in the museum contains a host of religious artefacts of Celtic and Early Christian origin. This captures the transition from paganism to Christianity on the island and the influence this had on Irish art and craftsmanship from the 7th century AD onwards.
The Bell of St Patrick, crafted from iron and bronze, dates from 8th-9th century AD and is reputed to have belonged to Ireland’s patron saint.
Another stunning early Irish Christian artefact is the Ardagh Chalice, which dates back to the 8th century AD. Discovered in the 1800s by a young man digging for potatoes in Ardagh, County Limerick, the chalice was used for dispensing Eucharistic wine during mass. An impressive example of early Medieval craftsmanship, it is made of gold, silver, glass, crystal, amber and enamel. The museum additionally houses one of the most significant gold collections in Europe.
For a compelling overview of Ireland’s varied past and culture, the National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology is an ideal place to start digging into history.