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Fish Trap

  • ‘Mesolithic’ actually means ‘middle Stone Age’ and ‘Neolithic’ ‘new Stone Age’.
  • During the Mesolithic era, the population of the whole of Ireland was only around 5,000 - the same as a small town nowadays.
  • The population of the entire island of Ireland is now over 1,000 times greater, at 6.3 million.
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  • The axehead was never used to cut anything. It was always a rare object, made not only to enhance the prestige of its owner but as a sacred thing in its own right.
  • The axehead originally came from Monte Beigua, high in the Italian Alps near Genoa.
  • The axe was the symbol of human power over nature. It was axes that allowed the dense woodlands to be cleared.
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  • The neolithic bowl was discovered in 1992 in Annagh, in the east of Co. Limerick.
  • The bowl was discovered along with remains of three other pots, in a small cave that contained three full human skeletons, two other sets of partial remains, various animal bones and a flint blade and arrowhead.
  • The bowl and pots tell us that the people were farmers; the other objects tell us that they were also hunters and warriors.
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  • Flint is found in lumps in chalk beds.
  • Flint is one of the hardest materials there is.
  • This ceremonial macehead, found in the chamber of the eastern tomb beneath the great passage tomb at Knowth, Co. Meath in the Boyne Valley.
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  • This object is a 5,000-year-old handbag found in a bog in Twyford, Co Westmeath.
  • Similar bags have been found around the world: the technique goes back to the Middle East around 4800 BC and is still used by indigenous cultures.
  • At the time people could not expect to live beyond their 30s.
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  • The basket earrings were buried at Amesbury, near the great English monument of Stonehenge sometime around 2400-2200 BC.
  • Some archaeologists think that they were worn around the edge of the ear.
  • Others think that they were worn in hair braids.
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Pair of
Gold Discs

  • The gold discs are from Tedavnet, in Co. Monaghan.
  • In the Early Bronze Age the ability of metalworkers to turn crude rock into objects of dazzling brightness must have imbued them with some sense of the magical.
  • The general belief is that the discs relate to a cult of the sun and that the cruciform shapes in the design are intended to represent its life-giving rays.
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Gold Hoard

  • The Coggalbeg Gold Hoard has an extremely light weight -78g in total, about 2½ ozs.
  • The discs represent the sun and the lunula the moon.
  • More than 80 of the 100-plus gold lunulae found in western Europe come from Ireland.
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Bronze Age
Funerary Pots

  • Sometime in the Early Bronze Age, Irish people began to bury their dead in single graves. Not only are the dead given an individual burial, but the idea also takes hold that they will continue in some other form.
  • These pots are among the many ‘food vessels’ that survive from this period, some of which are vase-shaped, some bowl-shaped.
  • To our eyes, the most moving of these burials are those in which the dead person has been arranged in a foetal position. This tells us both that these Bronze Age people were looking carefully at the human body: they knew the shape of the child in the womb.
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  • Aurum is the Latin word for gold and means ‘glow of sunrise’.
  • Gold can be melted down and used again and again. Most of the gold ever discovered (about 80%) is still being used today.
  • Scientists believe that most of the gold on earth came from outer space! They say that millions of years ago, meteors slammed into the earth and brought a lot of gold with them.
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  • In March 1854 near Newmarket-on-Fergus the largest hoard of Bronze Age gold objects ever found in western or northern Europe.
  • Many pieces were melted down, but the evidence suggests there were 138 bracelets, six collars, possibly two torcs and four other pieces: 150 objects, all of gold.
  • Mooghaun had a large and prominent hill fort, with three huge, roughly concentric stone ramparts enclosing about 12 hectares and commanding wide views of the Shannon estuary.
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Gold Gorget

  • The marks that run through the ridges on the right-hand side of this dazzling gold collar show that it was roughly bent in two before being thrust into a rock fissure in the Burren, in Co. Clare.
  • The Gleninsheen gorget is a technical and artistic achievement at the apex of goldworking in the Europe of its time. It was made by applying a range of techniques: repoussé, chasing, raising, stamping, twisting and stitching.
  • There is evidence that gorgets like this one may be an ultra-luxurious and superfine expression of a contemporary European fashion.
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Bronze Cauldron

  • The cauldron, found in a bog in Castlederg, Co. Tyrone, is crafted from offset bands of sheet bronze held in place by rows of conical rivets, it almost certainly had a ritual as well as a social significance.
  • It was probably used as a central part of elite ceremonies in which the local king’s ability to share food and drink was an enactment of his power.
  • What is clear is that the practice of using bronze feasting equipment belongs to a widespread central and western European Bronze Age elite fashion.
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  • Recent carbon dating of the remains of its wooden shaft suggests that it may be more than 1,000 years older.
  • The Hallstatt people seem to have been responsible for the westwards spread of ironworking.
  • The radiocarbon tests date the ash shaft somewhere between 811 and 673 BC.
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  • The Broighter boat appears to be a precise model of an ocean-going vessel, probably wooden but possibly made of hide. The boat originally had nine benches for the rowers and eighteen oars with rowlocks, a long oar for steering at the stern, three forked barge-poles, a grappling-iron or anchor and a mast.
  • The Broighter boat was contained in a hoard of gold objects found in what had once been a salt-marsh on the shore at Lough Foyle, in Broighter, Co. Derry.
  • Apart from the delight of the Broighter boat itself, what is striking is that the gold objects found with it are mostly imports, including two neck chains that come from the eastern Mediterranean, possibly from Roman Egypt.
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Armlet, Old
Croghan Man

  • Old-croghan Man has a leather and tinned bronze armlet, with stamped metal clips representing the sun and decorated in the fashionable continental style, on his arm.
  • Before his death, he was fed a ritual meal of milk and grain: not the high-status meat-based diet that is revealed by analysis of his nails, but one meant, rather, to symbolise the earth’s fertility.
  • Old-croghan Man’s death was garishly violent. He was stabbed in the chest, struck in the neck, decapitated and cut in half (all that has been found is his torso and arms).
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Tall Cross, Monasterboice

late-ninth century
  • The earliest crosses were made of wood or metal and were much smaller than the wonderful high crosses we see today.
  • Sandstone is quite soft as stones go.
  • It’s quite easy to carve images on sandstone – if you’re good at that kind of thing!
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charter roll

  • The Normans always cooked their fruit because they believed it was dangerous to eat fruit raw.
  • The Normans invented stirrups, which keep your feet safe and secure when riding a horse – without stirrups you’d fall off really easily!
  • The Normans used spices like ginger, nutmeg and pepper, which were really expensive, as they were brought in from abroad in ships. They spiced their meat because it was not always fresh and the spice helped to make it taste better.
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cooking pot

Nineteenth century
  • Many big landowners showed little sympathy for the poor during the famine and continued to evict them for non‐payment of rent.
  • But many people tried to help. In 1847 alone, 40 Protestant ministers died of famine fever – typhus, as they tried to help the starving.
  • The Society of Friends or Quakers worked hard to provide food and relief during the famine.
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