Come ‘face-to-face’ with the Iron Age Bog Bodies at Ireland’s Archaeology Museum

Despite moaning constantly about paying £9k a year for a meagre 4 contact hours a week (all on a Thursday), the benefit of having so little time spent in lectures is that I am able to head off on longer trips, without feeling guilty for missing class. For this reason, last week, Larry and I jetted off to Dublin! IT WAS GREAT. I’m currently smack bang in the middle of essay deadline season, but I can’t resist quickly mentioning some of my favourite adventures/ places I really liked and reckon you’ll really like too.

On one of the rainiest days I have ever, ever experienced, we decided to take cover in the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology section (I’m a little confused about what the official title of this place is, but stick with me.) Open since 1890, with over 2 million artefacts documenting life in Ireland from 7000BC until the 20th Century, this place is basically a treasure trove for anyone with an interest in people from the past.

I appreciate that it might seem at the moment that I harp on and on and on about museums and castles and blahblahblah – BUT, the Irish archaeology museum is actually a bit insane. The building itself is beautiful and built in the neo-classical style mimicking the gorgeous classical buildings from Ancient Greece and Rome. The domed roof, classical marble columns, and crazy ornate mosaic floors are a beautiful things to experience in themselves.

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The exhibitions within, however, are really what all of the fuss is about. Learn about prehistoric Ireland, from 7000BC. See the collection of Stone Tools, the recreated Neolithic Passage Tomb, and the legit 15m long, 4,500 year old Log Boat. Pretty amazing stuff to see, and a really accessible introduction to the Celts as before my trip I knew very very little about Druids and Celtic history. The collection of Bronze Age gold-work (dating from 2200BC-500BC) is also definitely worth checking out as it is the largest collection in Western Europe. There are collars, bracelets, sun disks, earrings and who-knows what else made of the shiny, ornately decorated stuff. I kind of wanted to borrow/have some please.

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But really the craziest exhibit of all is that of the Bog Bodies. This exhibition explores Iron Age kingship and its connection with ritual sacrifice. Long story short, archaeologists have discovered the bodies of some seemingly high status people from 400-200BC, who had been naturally mummified due to the conditions of the bogs in which their bodies were ritually placed/dumped. Some of these bodies had been decapitated, some de-bowled, all of them killed, and now they are on display in the museum for you to look at. A literal opportunity to come ‘face-to-face’ with people of the past. And, to put it mildly, it’s pretty gnarly. Their skin is leathery and grey and they are in various states of decomposition. One of them is so well preserved that you can see that he is sporting the currently fashionable top-knot hairstyle. It was intense. But definitely go and have a look if you’re feeling brave!

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For a quick introduction into Ireland’s past, this museum is a must. It’s a beautiful place, a perfect shelter spot from the inevitable Irish rain, and also pretty gruesome! What’s stopping you?!

USEFUL INFO:

* Admission: Freeeeeeeeeeee
* Opening times: 10am – 5pm (Except on a Sunday when it opens at 2pm)
* There is a cafe, a cloakroom and a gift shop. However, a big coach party of old people had preceded us into the museum, so we didn’t make use of any of these.
* Bring with you: A strong stomach.
* National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology,
Kildare St.
Dublin 2.
* http://www.museum.ie/en/intro/archaeology-and-ethnography-museum.aspx
* http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bog_body – wiki about bog bodies

Maybe you’d also enjoy some other archaeology-related posts? Have a look here because that’s where you’ll find them. Or maybe some more about museums? Museums are goooood. The end.

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Climb the keep at Cardiff Castle

Impossible to miss, Cardiff Castle, with its ornate clock tower, high curtain walls (with the Roman foundations still visible), and glorious towers and spires, dominates the centre of the city. Since being built and rebuilt by the Romans from about 55AD, Cardiff Castle has had a great time transforming over the years from a Norman motte and bailey castle, to a medieval garrison complete with stone keep and defensive walls, to the victorian gothic fairy tale castle that we see today.

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Last week, I embarked on my latest adventure, but this time I ventured out of Bristol and into the nearby, crazy-fun city of Cardiff. As well as enjoying/enduring a night out on the town (in high heels?????? I had no idea that was still a thing!), and eating some beaut food at the gorgeous “Milgi’s” (a vegetarian place with a fantastic list of cocktails and a heated yurt outside), I had a snoop around Cardiff Castle and for a place that has been knocking around since the Romans were on the scene, it’s seriously not too shabby.

Have a wonder around Bute Park outside the Castle and check out the scale of the surrounding walls and moat, as well as the drawbridge and big-ass gateways. Inside, you can pick up an audio guide (the Cardiff website proudly informs us that this is read by Huw Edwards…?? I think he’s a news reader maybe?) and have a look around! The motte that the Norman keep is built on is seriously big, with a moat surrounding it and the thought of scaling it in a siege made me feel a little queazy. But climb on up regardless and check out the beautiful panoramic views from the top. On a clear day you can see all the way to Castle Coch on the hills to the north and also all the way to the sea.

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Hop on one of the guided House Tours, definitely worth the £3 extra. The 3rd Lord Bute teamed up with architect William Burges and basically pimped out the castle. It’s a fantastical gothic creation in the style of a feudal yet fairy tale castle from the Middle Ages, with stained glass windows, painted murals and gorgeous gilding and sculptures. The house tour takes

you around some of the more ornate rooms, including the Arab Room, with its INSANE decorated wooden ceiling covered in gold leaf, and the Day Nursery with tiling on the walls painted to depict a procession of heroes and heroines from fairy tales. The tour takes about 50 minutes, and a proud Welsh tour guide will point out things of note and will probably say “Ladies and Gentlemen” every second sentence.

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Also to check out are the wartime shelters in the walls of the castle. During air raids in the second World War, the castle was opened up to shelter the public and you can explore these evocative shelters and see the wartime canteen, bunkbeds and warden’s office. The dampness and the cold in the tunnels made this experience all the more atmospheric.

If you do find yourself in Wales’s capital city and fancy an hour or two of history, Cardiff Castle is a must. Think of it as an old-age version of Cribs.

USEFUL INFO:

* Admission: £12.00 adults, £10.50 with a student card.
* House Tour (50 mins) an additional £3 or £2.50 for students. (The first tour heads off at 10am)
* Opening times: 9.00-18.00 (although the castle closes earlier at 17.00 during the Winter months)
* The Cafe is open until 16.00 with a selection of hot and cold drinks, cakes and snacky lunchy foods including paninis, jacket potatoes, soups and sandwiches.
* A small coffee – £1.80 (A vanilla latte – £2.70)
* Bring with you: Your Camera, Money for the gift shop!
* Cardiff Castle,
Castle Street, CF10 3RB
* http://www.cardiffcastle.com/
* @Cardiff_Castle

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P.s. for fellow History lovers, I’ve got some more historical posts that you might enjoy. HAVE A LOOK. Over and out.