Monthly Archives: February 2015

National Museum of Ireland

This last weekend the group went on a ‘civvies’ trip out to Dublin to visit the museums in the City which we have been planning and saving for, for several months. Dublin is noted for its Viking past and collection of amazing objects in the museums, and we hoped to view these, and to learn about the Early Medieval and Medieval origins of the town.

Safe to say, we had a fantastic time; the weather was freezing, but the Guinness was good! We also took the opportunity to book a tour with Fin Dwyer who created and hosts the Irish History Podcast. Fins tour was very enjoyable, and was a great opportunity to walk round Dublin to try to get a sense of what was there 1000 years ago, when you strip away all the roads and modern buildings. Anyone who hasn’t checked out his podcast I highly recommend it, and if you are visiting Dublin yourself, I’d recommend his tour over any of the tourist focused ones, as he is actually an Archaeologist and Historian and his knowledge is more than just a prepared script.

The real star of the show for me, after the beer, was the Viking collections in the National Museum of Irelands Archaeology Museum. We took so many photographs, and actually made a couple of trips round. It’s a shame to hide these images away, particularly as so much of the material is unpublished, and largely unknown, so what I thought I would do is share some of our pictures in regular posts, with what I can remember of the details.

For starters is this little oddity. I confess, I have always ‘known’ leather bottles existed in the early medieval period, but never knew of any actual examples extant. Yet here this little one was. Sadly there were no more specific dating details so I don’t know for sure if this was from 600 AD or 1100 AD, or somewhere in between, but from the decoration, it wouldn’t look out-of-place in a 8th-12th century context, though much of the motifs are very long-lived. I also can’t remember where it was from.

It is very like a costrel in form (or should we perhaps say costrels are like these!), and approximately 30cm across and 15-20 cm deep. It appears to be in three parts; the ‘top’ face here is fairly flat, though now dished in, and the back is bowl-shaped, and these two stitched together as visible here.

DSC_0096There is also a separate formed mouth piece, which seems to be stitched on similar to the Hedeby Quivers. Presumably there was a waxed wooden plug/cork in the top, and there is also a suspension cord. The leather it is constructed out of seemed pretty thick, perhaps 3-4mm. It was pretty clear that the domed ‘back’ part had been formed first, before decoration and assembly.

DSC_0098Decoration… yeah… and boy was it! It was arranged in bands running around the vessel with a central motif in the middle of each face, and a mix of motifs. The ever-present Greek key, and triple stranded knotwork motif, and some elaborate triskelesque (yeah I made up a word) swirls. The central circular motif on each face, was made out of triquetra arranged with one point in the centre, and the other two points touching the edge of the circle, and the spaces in between filled with triangle, cross hatched in opposing 90 degree directions. You can breathe a sigh of relief if you got this far, I’m not going to describe the whole thing, but hopefully those notes will help clarify some details for any of you thinking of making replica; it’s certainly going on my ‘to do’ list this year!