Sunday, November 12, 2017

Remembering Inis Mor

Inis Mor through the sundial stone
Tempall Chiarain
Remembering Inis Mor today...the peace and solitude, my soul sisters, the ambiance of grace and hospitality, the glimpses beyond the Veil. All the while Deidre Ni Chinneide sings Celtic melodies that pierce my heart with beauty and mystery. I live changed by my experiences.




Friday, November 3, 2017

Bog Bodies


Hand of Oldcroghan Man
I've been intrigued by bog bodies since I learned about them during my first visit to Ireland in 2014. So a trip to the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology was on my 'must visit' list since they have three Irish bog bodies on display there. These preserved, almost mummified bodies have been found in peat bogs across Europe giving scientists a unique opportunity to study prehistoric man. These bodies have been dated to around 400-200 BC; they are remarkably well preserved.
Torso of Clonycavan Man
Because of the low oxygen content and high acidity of bog water, organic material does not decompose, but rather mummifies. The museum has studied the remains with both CT and MRI scans and has been able to determine such things as cause of death, what the individual's diet consisted of, and underlying diseases.
Gallagh Man found in Co. Galway
It's commonly thought that bog bodies were the result of ritual human sacrifice to appease the gods of Iron and Bronze Age man. Young men were sacrificed as were kings who failed to adequately care for their subjects.
Using modern reconstructive science, this is a model of what Clonycavan Man may have looked like.



Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Gold!

The Bronze Age inhabitants of Ireland loved their gold! Many artifacts such as these have been found in burial sites and in other caches throughout Ireland.
Everything you see in the above two photos was found at the same super treasure trove site in Co. Clare. And this is only part of the hoard! All of these fine pieces were made in the Late Bronze Age.
As these early goldsmiths improved their skills, their pieces became more and more refined like this beautiful necklace of twisted gold.
This lovely brooch, known as the Brooch of Tara, is thought to have belonged to one of the kings of Tara. There are interlaced animal and geometric designs fashioned of gold filigree on the front as well as inlaid pieces of glass and amber. It is made of both silver and gold.
Of all the stunning gold jewelry on display, these simple, hollow gold balls were my favorites. Each ball is a little smaller than a tennis ball and is pierced so as to be worn on a piece of rope or leather as a necklace. You can see there are a few missing, and no, I didn't bring them home with me! I think anyone wearing this dramatic necklace would have commanded a lot of attention and respect.

This gold jewelry is definitely the show-stopper at the museum, but it's not why I was so eager to visit. I'll share that reason with you in my next blog post.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Artifacts of Prehistory

Mesolithic knives and scrapers found in Ireland
I'm fascinated by the artifacts of prehistory. Bob and I spent hours in the Yellowstone backcountry searching for arrowheads, scrapers, and flakes that gave evidence of the presence of prehistoric Native Americans in the areas we patrolled. Seeing those same kinds of stone artifacts in the National Museum of Ireland Archaeology was equally intriguing. Thousands of miles separated these early peoples, yet both fashioned tools and weapons in the same way.
Decorated flint mace head, Co Meath
This beautifully decorated flint mace head found in Co Meath may have served a ritual purpose.
Bronze Age spear points

Bronze Age food vessel found in burial tomb

Sometime during the Bronze Age early Irish people began to cremate their dead and put the ashes in pottery containers that were placed in stone burial tombs. These lidded vessels were filled with food or ashes.
Model of burial tomb
Dolmens that we see today in France may be what has survived of tombs like this model of a prehistoric Irish megaltihic tombs

As fascinating as these artifacts are, the real show-stoppers are to come in a later post. Here's a taste to tempt you back...


Saturday, October 28, 2017

Museum of Archaeology

National Museum of Ireland Archaeology
The National Museum of Ireland Archaeology was number 2 of my 'must see in Dublin' list. This imposing building in the Victorian Palladian style was built in 1890 and is part of a complex that also houses the National Library of Ireland. It's a gorgeous building, worth a visit even if you aren't interested in all the fascinating goodies inside.
The colonnaded entrance leads to a rotunda topped by a large dome...all with neo-classical influences.
The inlaid mosaic floors are designed with both Roman and classical Greek motifs. All the marble in  the building comes from Irish counties including County Galway.
My next post will showcase some of the intriguing artifacts this lovely museum houses.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Monpezet-de-Quercy

La Collegiate Saint-Martin
There will be more stories from this month's trip to Ireland, but first a tiny diversion to yesterday's adventure with friends, Maggie and Bill. They always find such interesting places to visit! Yesterday we were in Monpezet-de-Quercy, a small town about an hour's drive from my house. The town looks charming, but our goal was this 14th century church that houses some stunning 16th century tapestries.

The newly-restored tapestries are hung around the walls of the chancel. There are five panels each measuring about 6 x 16 feet; in total spanning 78 feet of wall space. They depict the life of St. Martin of Tours, an important French saint. It's unknown exactly who wove the panels or where they were produced, but it's thought they are Flemish.
They are absolutely stunning!

We rounded out our morning with a stop at Domaine du Gabachou to pick up some boxed wine and then enjoyed a scrumptious lunch at Le-Gabachou, a restaurant just up the road from the winery. It was a lovely way to spend a perfect fall day.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Dun Aengus

Yes, that's Kilmurvy House in the distance, my guesthouse during this month's writing retreat on Inis Mor. And this is the path that leads up the hill to
this: Dun Aengus (Dun Aonghasa in Irish), an 1100 B.C. ring fort.
Not a long hike, but all uphill over pretty rocky terrain for the last bit to the top. I'm glad my friend, Anne, loaned me her walking sticks for the downhill 'slide!'
The view from the top is spectacular!
And yes, your eyes are not deceiving you. There are NO guardrails!
The tradition is to lie on your belly and hang your head over the edge to look straight down.
Nope, not me, man!