Dublin, Co Dublin
The National Museum of Ireland is actually split into four locations, each with its own focus. The museums of Decorative Arts and History, Natural History and Country Life are located variously around the country. However, if you only have time for one, there’s no question that the museum of archaeology is the finest of the lot.
As with so many of Ireland’s national treasures, admission is free. This, no doubt, contributes to the nearly half a million visitors that pass through each year. However, even if the museum did levy an admission fee, it would still be well worth it. These are among the highlights of the archaeology museum:
This is arguably the finest of the museum’s collections, if only because its representative of Ireland and holds artefacts that are rarely found elsewhere in such abundance. The objects on display include pieces from the Iron Age and remnants of Viking culture. This segues into an exhibit that explores the transition from Pagan to Christian cultures, centring on an ancient manuscript of the Book of Psalms. It rounds out with an exhibit of medieval craftsmanship.
Kingship and Sacrifice
A major discovery of Iron Age remains was found in County Offaly in 2003. After this, a team of international specialists converged on Ireland to excavate the area. This exhibition is the culmination of that work, with information about the role that human sacrifice played in royal rites of the Iron Age in Ireland.
Ór – Ireland’s Gold
Bronze Age goldwork is the focus of this exhibit. Before the intervention of the Royal Irish Academy in 1785, anyone who found a bit of crude gold that was thousands of years old would just as soon melt it down than put it on display. Luckily for today’s visitors, the Royal Irish Academy was reasonably successful, and a great deal remains on display for future generations.
It’s fitting that a country with as much prehistory and many ancient artefacts as Ireland would appreciate the same in other parts of the world. These exhibits feature artefacts from the Stone Age through the Middle Ages. The painted sarcophagus of Tentdinebu is a particularly important piece and dates roughly to the 9th century BC.