Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Hill of Tara & the National Museums

I have really enjoyed the opportunity to take several classes in completely different disciplines here at UCD.  I am taking everything from International Financial Management to Irish (yes, the language).  Another unique course has been Exploring Archaeology, a subject that isn't really offered back home.  Through the course I have taken two local field trips, one to the National Archaeology Museum of Ireland in Dublin and the other to the more rural Hill of Tara site.  Both were interesting visits and I've included several pictures below.

The National Museum had a multitude of really amazing pieces inside.  Some of my favorite artifacts were those found in the bogs around the country (that would have otherwise decomposed had it not been for very specific environmental conditions).  Ireland's peat bogs surround objects deposited within them with wet, low temperature, anaerobic environments that do not allow organisms to survive and break them down.  Some of the most well known examples of this are bog bodies, but there was also another item that was remarkably discovered in 2006 - a medieval manuscript.  The Faddan More Psalter was found during a peat cutting in Tipperary.  It was, and is, an unprecedented find and provides a unique look into the past - it was written around 800AD.  In addition to the Psalter and other bog exhibits, there was also a great Viking exhibit with countless tools and swords.  There was no shortage of gold on display either, with some of Ireland's most famous gold pieces, such a ornate gold neck collars, on display in the center of the museum.

 Above Left: Dugout canoe found in Galway - found in a bog in 1902, it is an astounding 50 feet   long, one of the largest in Europe. It's made of a hallowed out oak tree, dating to 2,500BC!
 Wooden cauldron & wheel recovered from an Irish peat bog
                                         The famous Faddan More Psalter (4 images below)

                        According to the plaque, below is the best preserved medieval Viking sword discovered in Ireland. 

In addition to the National Archaeology Museum of Ireland, I also took a look inside the Natural History Museum.  It was essentially a large taxidermy museum, but nonetheless an interesting stop.  There were a great diversity of animals represented, the most eye catching for me being the Tasmanian Tiger.  I had done a project on this species in middle school and - it unfortunately went extinct in the first half of the 20th century, so it was quite amazing to see one in the museum.
                                                                          The Tasmanian Tiger (above)

The Hill of Tara trip was organized as a class trip on a Saturday last month.  Tara, located in Co. Meath, is one of the most significant archaeological sites in Ireland, with several monuments, (like ring barrows and a Neolithic passage tomb) dating to many different time periods scattered about the landscape.  I would recommend a visit to Tara since it is a place of great importance in Irish history, but only if you have a guide/someone who is very knowledgeable about the site.  We were fortunate to have several archaeology professors with us to detail what and where each monument was, otherwise most monuments would have looked like nothing more than a grassy hill or ditch.  With the history behind everything though, it was very interesting.

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