10 Fascinating Artefacts Not to Be Missed at The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology

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NMI National Museum of Ireland Archaeology Torc

The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology located in Kildare Street (Dublin city centre) offers a fun free learning experience for the whole family. The museum consists of 7 galleries and displays artefacts from 7000BC to the 20th Century, so many in fact, that you won’t know where to look! These are 10 Fascinating Artefacts Not to Be Missed at the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology!

#1. Lurgan Log Boat

lurgan log boat NMI National Museum of Ireland Archaeology

Check out the oldest intact Irish boat! The 4000 year old log boat, which was carved out from the trunk of an oak tree, was found in a bog in Lurgan, Co. Galway in 1901. Apart from being the oldest, this exceptional boat is also one of the largest log boats to have been found in Ireland.

The log boats would have been used on both the sea and rivers to move about the country and to fish for food.

Where to find: Prehistoric Ireland, Ground Floor downstairs.

#2. Sun Discs/Lunulae (Coggelbeg)

Gold Lunula (2010:246) and Gold Discs (2010:247, 2010:248), Coggalbeg, Co. Roscommon

Did you know that Ireland has the largest collection of gold objects on display outside of Greece? During the Bronze Age in Ireland (2,400 BC), gold was used to make objects to wear on very special occasions.

It is thought the gold was taken from river gravels and hammered into thin sheets before being crafted into jewellery and other precious decorative objects.

The museum of Archaeology has many gold artefacts on display but two of the finest examples, which are thought to represent the sun and the moon, are Sun Discs and Lunulae.

Where to find: Ór – Ireland’s Gold, Ground Floor.

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#3. The Corleck Head

Celtic Corleck Head NMI National Museum of Ireland ArchaeologyThe Corleck Head is a very interesting stone that was carved over 2,000 years ago during the Iron Age.

All around the stone there are three very similar faces, but all have a small difference. See if you can spot them when you visit!

The carved stone was discovered in 1855 near Corleck Hill in Co. Cavan and is thought to be associated with ancient religious rituals.

Where to find: The Treasury, Ground Floor.

#4. Tara Brooch & Ardagh Chalice

Ardagh Challice and Tara Broches NMI National Musuem of Ireland Archaeology

Both the ‘Tara’ Brooch and Ardagh Chalice date to the 8th century AD and were rediscovered in the 19th century. It is thought they were concealed during the Viking Age for safekeeping. They are examples of some of the greatest achievements of Early Medieval Irish metalworkers, highly intricate and decorative in their design which has been created with precious metals and stones.

Take a closer look at these objects and see if you can pick out some of the animal ornaments that have been used to decorate them.

Where to find: The Treasury, Ground Floor.

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#5. The Ogham Stone

Ogham Stone NMI National Museum of Ireland ArchaeologyDid you know that the Ogham alphabet is the earliest alphabet found in Ireland? It consisted of vertical and horizontal lines of differing lengths that when placed together in a certain order represented words.

The Ogham stone on display in the museum of archaeology was found in Aglish Co. Kerry. It is one of more than 400 Ogham stones that are in Ireland today, many of which can still be found standing in fields around the Irish countryside.

Where to find: Prehistoric Ireland, Ground Floor.

#6. Viking Sword Ballinderry

Viking Sword NMI National Museum of Ireland ArchaeologyThis sword was found at a crannog in Ballinderry, Co. Offaly and is the finest example of a Viking-type sword to be discovered in Ireland. It was made in the 9th century AD and it was likely brought to Offaly through trade or even warfare. It has a silver mounted handle and an elaborate pattern-welded blade inlaid with the name of the sword-maker, whose blades were exported from Rhineland (Germany) during the Viking Age.

The first Viking raids on Ireland took place in 795 AD, when islands off the north and west coasts were plundered. The Vikings then used the river system to move through the country and raided mainly monasteries which were full of treasures and many of the people within were taken as slaves.

Where to find: Viking Ireland, First Floor (not wheelchair accessible)

#7. Viking Artefacts – Ice Skates and Ballinderry Gaming Board

Viking gaming board NMI National Museum of Ireland Archaeology

Did you know that the Vikings liked to play board games? This 10th century gaming board was used to play a Viking war game called Hnefatafl (pronounced nef-fa-ta-ffle) and is thought to have been made in Dublin.

You can also take a look at Viking Age ice skates! These are more than 800 years old and made from horse bone. They would have been used to help people move more easily on the ice rather than for pleasure.

The museum has an extensive collection of Viking artefacts that reflect everyday activity and include tools used in spinning, sewing, weaving, shoes, utensils, jewellery and other items.

Where to find: Viking Ireland, First Floor (not wheelchair accessible)

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#8. Kavanagh Charter Horn

Kavanagh Charter Horn NMI National Museum of Ireland ArchaeologyThe Kavanagh Charter Horn is a symbol of the Gaelic Kingship of Leinster and the one on display at the museum of archaeology dates back to the 13th century AD.

It is made from elephant ivory, a very precious material which it is forbidden to hunt for these days. It it believed to have been used as a hunting horn as far back as the 12th century and later used as a drinking vessel!

The Medieval Ireland gallery offers an insight into the complexity of medieval Irish society and is divided into 3 individual galleries which reflect the division in medieval European society. Power (belliatores – those who fight), Prayer (oratores – those who pray) and Work – (laboratores – those who work).

Where to find: Medieval Ireland 1150-1550, First Floor (not wheelchair accessible)

#9. Shrine of St Patrick’s Tooth

Shrine-of-St-Patrick’s-Tooth NMI National Museum of Ireland ArchaeologyIt is believed that many years ago St. Patrick visited a church in Co. Sligo and while he was there his tooth fell out! The priest held onto the tooth for many years and during the 12th century made this special shrine to keep it safe.

Shrines are often visited by people who believe they can cure certain ailments and in the 19th century, people thought that this shrine would cure sick animals.

Where to find: Medieval Ireland 1150-1550, First Floor (not wheelchair accessible)

#10. Egyptian Mummies

Egyptian Mummy black NMI National Museum of Ireland ArchaeologyDid you know that the National Museum of Ireland has Egyptian mummies on display? The Egyptians developed techniques of mummification to prevent the body from rotting. At the Ancient Egypt exhibition you will not only see Mummies but will discover more about mummification techniques and processes.

In ancient Egypt people believed they could bring their most prized possessions into the afterlife with them so when they were buried their most prized possessions were buried with them.

Where to find: Ancient Egypt, First Floor. (not wheelchair accessible)

View a comprehensive guide of the history of some of the most fascinating artefacts not to be missed at the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology.

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