Oldcroghan Man

15 Apr

The first exhibit I looked at when we went to the National Museum was the Kingship & Sacrifice exhibit. In this exhibit there are four bodies dating back to the Early Iron Age that were found in bogs at various points throughout the years. One common thread to each discovery was that it occurred during peat cutting in the bogs. The bodies are preserved to varying degrees. Some were deteriorated upon discovery, others deteriorated as time passed, but the organs in some are excellently preserved.

20150327_153648The most interesting – and disturbing – of these bodies is the Oldcroghan Man. The remains were discovered in May 2003. The remains consist only of the torso. The head and lower body were severed either as part of the attack that killed him, or after. The body was dated to around 362 to 175 BC. The man is believed to have been over 25 years old when he died. The location of the body was at the border of two territories: Tuath Cruachain and Tuath na Cille.

It is believed that the Oldcroghan Man was in a position of high status in the society he lived in. His torso was well preserved by the bog so researchers could tell that his hands had not been exposed to heavy manual labor during his lifetime. The Oldcroghan Man was not the only body believed to belong to a high status individual discovered in the bogs. One injury suggests that the attacker(s) may have felt threatened by this man’s position in society. An ancient Irish tradition to exhibit submission was sucking a king’s nipples. However, the nipples of the Oldcroghan Man were cut off his body. He would have been unable to participate and therefore would not have been able to be a king. Much of the injuries to the Oldcroghan Man were probably meant to be symbolic as much as lethal.

When I went on a tour to Glendalough, the tour guide mentioned discoveries in the bogs. He told the group that the bogs were not a good place to hide bodies, because it allowed for movement, so whatever was buried in the bogs would not necessarily remain in the same location. However, regarding the bodies displayed in the National Museum, the bogs at least allowed for decent preservation so we can learn more about the past.

-Jami Bunton


Walled, Up

3 Apr

My hometown, Philadelphia, is well known for its murals and mural program; however, the friendly and (dare I say) sanitized mural art at home cannot even begin to compare to what I saw in Belfast and Derry.

Belfast is perhaps the most politically charged city in European history, save for the former East/West Berlin. Even today, nearly 20 years after the official end of the Troubles, there is a palpable tension permeating the air on either side of the “Peace” Wall. This, of course, was exacerbated by the fact that we were on a trip to learn about the lasting tensions from the Troubles.

The murals stood out to me, though, among all that we learned two weeks ago. The row on the Catholic side, standing in solidarity with other human rights’ violations around the world while commemorating those who fell in Northern Ireland, particular those who died in the Hunger Strike. The mural dedicated to the crisis in Syria particularly is memorable—it, to my mind, is indicative of the community’s global political awareness and great capacity for compassion. The Protestant murals seemed (to my biased/Catholic mind) to be more intimidating and even occasionally violent, but they appear to be based in the same nationalist passion that fires the Catholic community; they merely see themselves as part of a different nation.

The murals in Derry, particularly the wall of Free Derry, were equally poignant in their activism and political power. However, nothing I saw in the North of Ireland compared to the experience of the Annette McGavigan mural. Annette’s mural drove home, beyond anything else we learned, the true and lasting effect of the Troubles: the death of bystanders, whose only crime was being in the wrong place at the wrong time. When our tour guide, Garvin, relayed the story of her father visiting the mural every day to talk to his daughter, I found tears streaming down my face—the memory of the story alone makes me tear up. It can be easy to get caught up in ideology, but Annette forces us to remember that behind every thought, action, and manifesto are human beings: some old, some young, and all simply seeking to live their best lives. When conflict and ideology impede the ability to live, it is time to reevaluate the ideologies that began the conflict in the first place. Or, in the more succinct words of a signature on the Peace Wall in Belfast:

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–Casey Berner

Looking Back on Belfast and Derry

2 Apr

As my time here in Ireland nears a close, I find myself looking back on all of the immeasurable experiences I have had. And while there have been the touristy posts of the land, the modern museums and the beer factories, what I have found most incredible is the story of persistence found in Belfast and Derry.

While visiting Northern Ireland for one short weekend, I was overwhelmed by the history of two cities. First in Belfast, I learned about the area’s wartimes from two tour guides, one Protestant and one Catholic. Having grown up immersed in The Northern Ireland Conflict, which took place from the 1960s and is said to have ended with the Good Friday agreement in 1998, these two men were passionate about their involvement. The first being Protestant, this man was clear in distinguishing his separation from England. Many listeners were even more fascinated by the second guide, who stated that he had been imprisoned for killing a man during The Troubles. This was not uncommon, as according to CAIN, between 1969 and 2001, “3,531 were killed as a result of the conflict,” (Sutton Index of Deaths). And while the conflicts were said to be put to an end in 1998, clearly, as this statistic notes, this political and religious battle continued to tare Ireland apart years later, and great tension still exists today.

Another tragic story is that of Derry. Known in particular for “Bloody Sunday,” this 1972 peaceful march against England and unlawful imprisonment by Derry citizens left 26 unarmed civilians shot and 14 dead, killed by British soldiers. After hearing accounts from family members of those killed, it is clear that there is no moving on from this day. While both experiences, those in Belfast and Derry, were heartbreaking, I do not regret visiting these spots, as they illustrate the perseverance of this nation, while also highlighting that much more needs to be done to help these people reach prosperity and freedom.

– Kate Nichols

“Sutton Index of Deaths: Year of the death”Conflict Archive on the Internet (CAIN). Retrieved 1 April 2015.


1 Apr

I’d always planned on traveling but when explaining my decision to study abroad I consistently led with “I want to LIVE in another country.” At the time it wasn’t easy to articulate what that meant exactly. I wanted to not be tourist somewhere that wasn’t in the same region of the country I’ve lived in my entire life so far and probably will live in for the rest of my life. I wanted to really understand the culture, but that was just a vague thought. I wanted those “new eyes” all those romantic travel quotes were talking about. So as a girl who’d never flown nor been to Canada, which is basically my backyard, I applied for a passport, packed up and placed my life on hold while I spend three months in another world.

Well, after my trip to the North, while sitting in my Irish Life and Cultures class listening to Allan talk about “The Plough and the Stars” and how the Irish finally saw themselves in the rebellion (and didn’t like it) I had a realization. I have actually accomplished what I set out to do by living in another country. After months of this Irish Life crash course and a powerful trip to the North, along with daily interactions, I actually feel like I understand the entirety of the Irish psyche in such a complex way that I couldn’t exactly put it into words- which is exactly what I wanted. I didn’t want something I could’ve just read off a page, I wanted a true understanding. And I’ve definitely gained “new eyes” from the view from across the pond.

The Cross of Church, State and Cong

1 Apr

While I was searching around the National Museum, I stumbled upon a dark room with a bright box at the end of the hall. The contents within was one of the most beautiful crosses I had ever seen, every bit of it magnificently gleaming, covered in designs and animal carvings that were evident of careful handwork. An oak masterpiece dressed in sheets of bronze, intertwined with streams of silver, with points of deep blue stone inlaid within the cross made up this artifact. It was the Cross of Cong I was seeing, within the Treasury Exhibition, the most exquisite example of medieval Irish art form. Naturally I saw many crosses in my tour of the museum, smaller, larger, darker, brighter, a natural part of the religious Irish history.

On further inquiry, I found the multitude of other crosses in the museum didn’t hold the same historical context of this cross. The Cross of Cong is referred to in Irish as “an Bacall Buidhe” which translates into “the yellow staff”. This description of it adequately fits its history and cultural origins. It was first presented to Tairdelbach Ua Chonchobair (Turlough O’Conor), king of Connacht and high king of Ireland, by Pope Callistus II in A.D. 1123. This allowed O’Conor to assert that the Pope recognised him as the official king of Ireland, it put an end to the vicious fight for lordship of Ireland. In doing this, O’Conor could present himself as a supporter of the church and cleverly extract support from the Church for the benefit of his own political aspirations. This is one of the first times recorded in Irish history of the connection formed between the Church and State, a pattern that would repeat itself countlessly through Irish history, even in current day events. It is one of the last surviving artifacts of the Irish Medieval Church, it reflects Viking and Romanesque styles and was influenced by how Irish craftsmen were drawn to new artistic styles. There is a tradition presented with this cross that goes deeper than just being a gift, it is a symbol of the origins of the intermingling between the interests of religion and that of politics, being a reflection of each other in the laws and social trends.


Northern Ireland Experience

31 Mar

Our trip to Northern Ireland was by far one of the most interesting trips I had been on during my time in Ireland. I use the word interesting because the trip ranged from simple and normal activities to frightening and exciting activities. I really had to no idea what to expect from this trip because I was sick and I didn’t think the Galway trip could be topped up.

Starting from Belfast, I thought the views of the Protestant and Catholic men were very attention-grabbing. They seemed very passionate about their views on religion and I really like the history behind their stories. I was really surprised that the wall dividing both sides is still up because I imagined that they would both groups would get along by now but that would be the case in a perfect world I guess. The parliament was a great visit because it is such an official building and I learned about the history of the parliament and the ancient rooms that are inside the building. My favorite part of the parliament visit was the glass box with gifts from different people all around the world. The gift that caught my interest was the Tiffany’s box because what girl doesn’t like a Tiffany’s boxJ.

Next up is Carrick Island and the Rope Bridge, visiting the island was by far my favorite activity of the whole weekend. I really liked Carrick Island because it was challenging for me, challenging in the sense that I had to cross the rope bridge to get to the island. When I looked down at the bridge, my first thought was “that is such a short distance,” but as I got closer to the bridge I understood why the bridge was so significant. The bridge may have been a short distance but it was nerve racking for me. I was actually terrified of the bridge because when I was on the bridge the wind was blowing really hard and this made the bridge shake. The bridge was already unsteady and terrifying but with the wind, I was beyond scared. I tried hard not to look down which was hard to do, but regardless of my fear I was glad I experienced the bridge because it lead to the beautiful cliffs. After the Island, we went to the Giant Causeway which I liked because of the hexagon rocks.

Finally, I really liked our visit to Londonderry, mainly because of our amazing and hilarious tour guide. I really enjoyed his stories and his fascination of his city, his love for the city made the city an exciting place to tour. I believe that my experience at Londonderry was a great one because we had a guide who has lived in the city his whole life and has experienced the positive and negative times that the city had. Learning about Bloody Sunday was very touching for me and it gave me a new appreciation for to Ireland’s history.

-Esther Dada

National Museum

31 Mar

This past Friday I was able to go to the National Museum of Ireland to explore its history. It had a large amount of historical artifacts and many different sections. There were sections varying from religious objects to ancient gold jewelry to human sacrifice. I especially found the Viking Ireland Exhibition interesting considering how much of it we have covered in class. It gave me the ability to connect the artifacts I saw with the Viking invasion. In this exhibition there was one specific piece, which caught my eye. It was a Brian Boru harp bracelet dating back to 1850. The bracelet was decorated with shamrocks all around the silver band with a traditional harp in the center. Ireland is the probably the only country with a musical instrument, a harp, as its national emblem. The importance of the harp begins centuries back. It is said to have probably dated back to the 15th century possibly later with the harp being the most popular instrument. It has been associated with Brian Boru since the 18th century because he was a very famous King that was known for playing harp. The oldest surviving harp is the one in Trinity College on display known as the Brian Boru harp from the 15th century. The harp is widely present now on official documents, the Presidential Seal, on Irish Euro coins, and as a symbol for many different organizations and corporations embracing their Irish roots. The Brian Boru harp bracelet was not the only harp related object in the museum. There was also a small silver harp brooch dating back to 1850 in the Viking section, and there was a large wooden harp in the music section representing the harp music that was usually played in celebrations and events. I greatly enjoyed my time in the National Museum. -Mucia Flores