Recently we visited the National Museum of Ireland. It was extremely interesting, and we learned loads about various artifacts and how they relate to the history of Ireland. The museum’s purpose is to ‘collect, preserve, promote, and exhibit all examples of Ireland’s portable material heritage and natural history.’ I feel that they do this very well, for it was one of my favorite trips we have gone on as a class and other students feel the same.
One of my favorite exhibits was that of the various ancient iron weapons they had on display. One such was an axe head, apparently used by a warrior under the rule of Mael Sechnaill, a high king based in modern day County Westmeath in the late 10th century. His reign began in 980 at the Battle of Tara with a victory over Olaf, King of Dublin. A rivalry with the famous Brian Boru ended in 1002, when he acknowledged Boru as king. Sechnaill then went on to support Boru at the famous Battle of Clontarf. Having survived Boru, he was then able to recover his status as High King of Ireland.
Another extremely interesting exhibit were the Ogham Stones they had on display. Ogham was one of the first forms of writing in Ireland, where they would scratch a series of linear symbols and cuts into a stone or pillar. It is modeled after the Roman alphabet and consists of a series of 20 letters. The key to the script is recorded in the Book of Ballymote, a medieval text. More than 300 stones exist today, and are most common in southwest Ireland, dating back to the 4th and 6th centuries AD. Ogham stones found in present-day England and Wales are evidence of Irish presence in the U.K. at that time. What is most fascinating to me is the fact that several of these stones survived, 1500 years later. Also the fact that we have deciphered their meaning; this has given us a glimpse into the life and culture of the Irish at that time period. The National Museum of Ireland was an amazing experience, one that I will never forget.