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By Fintan O'Toole

Items do not simply have tales, they inform tales. yet what they acknowledged to their contemporaries might be various from what they are saying to us. even if it is a silver tea urn from Georgian Dublin or an illuminated web page from the ebook of Kells, those gadgets support us achieve a extra complicated realizing of our prior. during the last years Fintan O'Toole has selected a hundred items, the vast majority of which are present in the National Read more...

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The Irish instances literary editor Fintan O'Toole selects a hundred gadgets to relate a background of Ireland. Read more...

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Is there any real difference between the desire to see the original of, say the Book of Kells, and the creepy compulsion that makes someone pay a year’s salary to buy one of Elvis Presley’s used hankies on eBay? There is a good, sober, respectably scientific answer to these questions. Unlike reproductions or digital images, original objects are not static. They contain secrets that can be unlocked with ever newer techniques. We are learning astonishing things from old objects, things we never thought they could reveal—exactly how old they are, where they came from, what their own histories might be.

It is easy to understand why those who sailed in open boats like this one would seek his help and protection. Apart from the delight of the boat itself, what is striking is that the gold objects found with it are mostly imports, including two neck chains that come from the eastern Mediterranean, possibly from Roman Egypt. Ireland, which had previously been the great producer of goldwork in western Europe, is now bringing it in from the outside. What has happened to the people who once had such staggering wealth in bronze and gold?

Iron spearhead, 800–675 BC The past is unpredictable. This iron spearhead, found in the River Inny at Lackan in Co. Westmeath, is of a kind familiar enough from the Ireland of ad 500. Andy Halpin of the National Museum says that it ‘would not be out of place in the early-mediaeval period…When you think of the Iron Age legends of Cúchulainn, this is the type of weapon that people think of them carrying’. The problem is that recent radiocarbon dating of the remains of its wooden shaft suggests that this spear may be more than 1,200 years older than that.

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