Saturday, December 27, 2014

Giants, Vikings and Gold

A bout with the flu (despite getting a shot) and preparations for Christmas have kept me from blogging the last month. But now I am back to share some more highlights of our trip.
The last two days were spent in Dublin: shopping, people watching and absorbing the atmosphere. I did get to the archeological branch of the National Museum of Ireland. I visited it ten years ago when I was in Dublin for the first time and remember the awe I felt at some of the exhibits. The main floor is devoted to the ancient eras: iron age, bronze age and Neolithic. The displays of gold and amber jewelry are as massive and incredible as I recalled.


For perspective, the golden spheres are the size of baseballs, the twisted gold torcs over a foot in diameter, the amber beads the size of birds' eggs and the "cloak pins" are about ten inches long and big enough to fasten the garment of a giant.  And maybe there were giants living there, as there is a display at the museum of bog body called Old Croghan Man, which is the remains of a male in his twenties who was six and a half feet tall. The body is dated to the third century b.c., a time when most men were at least a foot shorter.
These amazing, oversized objects actually ended up being part of the plot of my book The Dragon Bard.
The museum also houses more traditional examples of Irish metalwork, like these dazzling gold torcs and the famous Ardagh Chalice.

But as much as I delight in the beauty and craftsmanship of these priceless objects, what I find most intriguing in this museum are the displays of everyday objects. There's something very affecting about viewing combs that actually smoothed the hair of people living in Viking Dublin, seeing the weapons they used in battle, the rings they wore and the gameboard they played games upon.

All too soon I had to leave the delights of the museum and return to the hotel. And there are two other branches I didn't have time to visit at all, the natural history museum and the museum of decorative arts and history. I've never even gotten to the decorative arts one, although I did visit the natural history one ten years ago, where I had one of the employees take this picture of me with the skeleton of the giant Irish elk displayed there.


  1. Yes, those coat pins could be fatal. Glad you enjoyed your trip and recovered from the flu.

  2. I loved this post. I was a teenager the last time I was in Dublin and was more interested in boys than history.
    One day I'll get back there. I've read about the elk and the great hazel forests that covered Ireland. I've also studied the daily life of Early Christian Ireland but seeing it would be a gift. Thank you for sharing your photos with us.

    1. I think my daughter's priority will probably change, too. She was way more into the nightlife in the city than the countryside. Thanks for stopping by.

  3. Fascinating! I would love to visit this museum. Thank you for sharing and I'm glad you're feeling better.

  4. I'm happy to hear you're feeling better. Sadly, I never got a chance to visit the museum when I visited some time ago, so what a treat to read your post, Mary. Thanks for sharing. Great pictures. :)