Thursday, January 25, 2018

Archaeological Items of Irish origin at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

I was recently browsing for something completely different in The Met’s online catalogue when I thought ‘I wonder if they have any Irish stuff?’ Not only do they hold Irish material in their collections, they generously make photographs available under a Creative Commons Zero Licence. These 20 items are all of metal (bronze, copper alloy, silver, and gold), and represent finds from 10 counties (Antrim, Cavan, Cork, Down, Dublin, Galway, Limerick, Tipperary, Westmeath, & Wexford) along with five merely provenanced to the island of Ireland. Together they are ascribed to three archaeological periods: Bronze Age (9), Iron Age (1), and Early Medieval (10). The Met does hold a number of other ancient Irish pieces, but all are without images so I've decided to omit them from this post.

The one story that strikes me immediately from putting this collection together is to wonder who one Patrick O'Connor of New York was and how he amassed his little collection of metalwork and how it came to be sold in 1949. However, that may be a research project for another day. I'm also intrigued by the peculiar silver torc, dated by the Met to the Iron Age. To the best of my knowledge, there are no other surviving silver torcs of this age ... and certainly none with this form of decoration. I'd certainly welcome anyone with better knowledge and insight to set me straight on this. While most of the items detailed here may not be of the very best of what ancient Ireland had to offer, all deserve to be better known within the broader archaeological community!

Bronze Age

Copper alloy disk. c. 1000 B.C. (12.1 x 2.3 cm)
Provenance: “From Mullingar (County Westmeath).; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)”
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.1




Copper alloy pin. c. 1000 B.C. or later (?)(30.6 × 5.3 × 2.4 cm)
Provenance: “From Ireland (County Cavan).; Estate of Captain John Ball (died 1938), England (unknown date); John Brayfield Ball (died 1939); [John Hunt, Ireland (ca. 1939?)]; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)”
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.4a, b




Copper alloy chape (Terminal of a Scabbard). 900-600 B.C. (16.5 x 4.3 x 1.7 cm)
Provenance: Made in Ireland. “George Roots (1807–1891), London (b.1807-d.1891); Christie's, London, April 20, 1891, lot 28; Lt. General Augustus Pitt Rivers (1827–1900), Farnham, Dorset, England (1891-?); [Alistair McAlpine, London (1987)]; Peter Sharrer, New York (until 1998)”
Gift of Peter Sharrer, 1998
Accession Number: 1998.540.2




Gold ‘dress fastener’. c. 800 B.C. (5.3 x 2.8 x 2.9 cm)
Provenance: Made in Ireland. “[Sydney Burney, London (sold 1933)]; [Brummer Gallery, Paris and New York (1933–1947)]”
Purchased via the Fletcher Fund, 1947
Accession Number: 47.100.10




Gold ‘dress fastener’. c. 800 B.C. (11.8 x 5 x 5.9 cm)
Provenance: Made in Ireland. “Sotheby's, London (May 19-22, 1913, no. 420); International Studio Corporation, New York (until 1940); [Brummer Gallery, Paris and New York (1940–sold 1947)]”
Purchased via the Fletcher Fund, 1947
Accession Number: 47.100.9



Gold disk from a reel. c. 800 B.C. (12.2 x 1.5 cm)
Provenance: Found in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford. “Patrick O'Connor Family, Ballyjamesduff, Co. Cavan, Ireland; Johnstown Castle, Co. Wexford, Ireland (before 1944); [Harold Naylar, Dublin]; [Patrick O'Connor, Dublin and New York (sold 1946)]; [Brummer Gallery, Paris and New York (1946–1947)]”
Purchased via the Fletcher Fund, 1947
Accession Number: 47.100.14




Copper alloy pin. 5th–4th century B.C. (11.9 x 2.6 x 0.5 cm)
Provenance: "From County Antrim.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.10




Copper alloy Torc. c. 1000 B.C. (22 x 21.5 x 1.8 cm)
Provenance: "From Loch Gur (county Limerick).; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 9.125.2



 

Copper alloy necklace. c. 1000 B.C. (20.3 x 13.5 x 1 cm)
Provenance: "From Loch Gur (county Limerick).; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.3



Iron Age

Silver Ribbon Torc. 500 B.C.-A.D. 400 (overall: 10.2 × 1.7 × 32 cm)
Provenance: “Found in Rathcormac, Co. Cork, Ireland (1882–1883); Robert Day, Cork, Ireland (by 1885); Rev. Mr. Neligan, Rector, Shandon Church, Cork City (sold 1885); [Ready and Rollin, London (sold 1885)]; Private Collection, Vienna(formed 1950s to 1980s–sold 2011); [Bonhams, London (April 13, 2011)]; [Rupert Wace Ancient Art Limited, London (sold 2013)]”
Purchase, Director's Fund and Rust Family Foundation Gift, 2013
Accession Number: 2013.613



Early Medieval

Silver penannular brooch. Early 800s (5.2 x 9.3 x 1.8 x 9.5 cm)
Provenance: Discovered in June 1854 in a field near Galway, Ireland. “Found near Galway, Ireland.; Lt. General Augustus Pitt Rivers (1827–1900), Farnham, Dorset, England; Carruthers, London; K. J. Hewett Ltd., London (1981); Ward & Company Works of Art, New York (sold 1981)”
Purchase, Rogers Fund, and Gift of J. Pierpont Morgan, by exchange, 1981
Accession Number: 1981.413




Copper alloy penannular brooch. 7th century (6.2 x 3.3 x 0.9 cm)
Provenance: “Alastair Bradley Martin, Guennol, Glen Head, New York (until 1953)”
Gift of Alastair Bradley Martin, 1953
Accession Number: 53.48.5



Copper alloy pin. 9th century (?)(10.5 x 2.5 x 1.3 cm)
Provenance: Discovered on a crannog in Co Down, Northern Ireland. Owned by Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.11




Copper alloy pin. 9th century (10.2 x 1.1 x 1.4 cm)
Provenance: Discovered on a crannog in Co Down, Northern Ireland. Owned by Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.12





Bronze Penannular Brooch. 6th–7th century (4.6 x 10.1 x 1.2 cm)
Provenance: Said to come from Cashel, County Tipperary.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.7





Copper alloy pin. 6th–8th century (7 x 1 cm)
Provenance: "From County Dublin.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.15




Copper alloy annular brooch. 9th century (22.1 x 2.4 x 0.9 cm)
Provenance: "From Glenarm, County Antrim.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949
Accession Number: 49.125.9





Bronze penannular brooch with garnets. 9th century (3.6 x 22 x 0.6 cm)
Provenance: "Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.8





Copper alloy pin. 10th century (12.6 x 1.1 cm)
Provenance: "From County Dublin.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.13





Copper alloy pin. 10th century (8.7 x 0.6 cm)
Provenance: "From County Dublin.; Patrick O'Connor, New York (sold 1949)"
Purchased via the Rogers Fund, 1949

Accession Number: 49.125.14

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Grenoble Archaeological Museum | The Church & graveyard





In recent posts, I’ve concentrated on some of the treasures on display at the Musee de l'Ancien Eveche, but now I want to turn my attention to the wonderful Grenoble Archaeological Museum. If one were to be pedantic, I’m sure the case could be made that the museum is slightly miss-titled – it’s not so much a museum dedicated to the archaeology of Grenoble, but to the historic church site of Saint-Laurent. However, it’s just as true to say that the archaeology of Saint-Laurent is in no small part, the archaeology of Grenoble too. The church as it survives today is a intricate set of building phases and burial activity. However, the core upstanding structure is Romanesque (12th century) and the burials stretch back to the Gallo-Roman period (4th century). So far, so good! But what really sets Saint-Laurent apart from … well, pretty much anything else … is that fact that it has a surviving Merovingian crypt from the 6th century. Coming from Irish archaeology, where even ruins of anything before the 10th century are relatively rare, a complete 6th century crypt never ceases to amaze me!

Exterior of the crypt

The site has been investigated in one form or another since the early 19th century, and the crypt was rediscovered in 1803. Activism by a number of prominent individuals (including Jacques Joseph Champollion-Figeac, older brother of Jean-François “Rosetta Stone” Champollion) led to the crypt being recognised as an historic monument in 1850. This protection was extended to the whole site in 1977 and a spectacular series of excavations began in 1983, followed by its opening to the public as a museum in 1986. When I first visited, in 2000, parts of the excavated cemetery withing the former cloister were roofed with corrugated plastic sheeting on a framework of scaffolding poles. It gave the area a feeling that the archaeologists had just left for their tea break and, if you could just find it, they were sitting chatting happily. The museum closed in 2003 for extensive renovations, only reopening in 2011. While I loved the older version of the museum, this new & improved facility is simply stunning. There are new displays; an excellent history of the site projected on one wall of the church; and a new glass roof over the excavated portion of the cemetery. This latter area still retains the set dressing of delicately placed buckets and clip-boards of context sheets and manages to retain the ‘archaeologists will be back in 20 minutes’ look.

Graveyard as photographed in 2000
The overviews of church interior show how the later floor levels have been excavated away, exposing the domed top of the 6th century crypt. Some of the sarcophagi here date to the 5th and 6th centuries. At the eastern end, the 18th century altar by Francesco Tanzi remains in place.


Excavations across the complex have uncovered some 1500 human burials, ranging in date from the 4th to the 18th centuries. One particularly densely used and reused area was the site of the former cloister. Analysis of the burials has shown that a variety of burial forms were used over time. Some that can be seen in the images here include simple stone-lined and plain graves. However, I find the one that looks like a terracotta land-drain fascinating. It appears that a body – probably wrapped in a shroud – was laid on a series of flat tiles. Further tiles were then placed one either side to form a triangular structure over the body, in lieu of a coffin. The whole was capped with a row of semi-circular sectioned tiles to hold it together before the grave cut was backfilled.


Graveyard as photographed in 2000

Graveyard as photographed in 2000


 




Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Tullynakill Church, Co. Down



Having concluded our visit to Sketrick Castle (Chapple Major: Loved it. Chapples Minor: Unimpressed), we next headed for Tullynakill church. This was to be our fourth archaeological site of the day and the children were getting bored and tired. I did my best to be enthusiastic, but I wasn’t holding out too much hope. While we were at Sketrick the clouds had closed over, the wind had risen, and the temperature dropped. It only looked like it was going to get more miserable. It’s less than three miles from Sketrick to Tullynakill, but somewhere along the way, the clouds parted, the wind ceased to blow, the air grew warm, and the sun shone. We parked the car and made our way onto the site and the atmosphere just felt magical.



Although the majority of the standing structure is 15th to 16th century, all the decorated stonework is of 17th century date. In the late 15th century it replaced Nendrum (4 miles away by road, or 1.5 miles as the crow flies/rows) as the Parish church. Unusually, for Ireland at least, burial then transferred to Tullynakill, leaving the older site free of later graves. The original doorway and window, now blocked, can be seen in the west gable. The later door in the south wall is carved with the date 1637. As the doorway and the windows are all executed in a similar style and in the same material (Castle Espie Limestone) it is likely that all date to the same year. The windows are chamfered and grooved to receive glass. The late medieval church was last used in 1825 when a newer church was built. This 19th century structure was itself demolished in the late 20th century.



I did my best with the Chapples Minor … really I did … I pointed out the doorway and the putlog holes in the gables and tried to get them interested in some of the gravestones, but it was all to no avail. The sun was out, the grass was high, and the site was just perfect for playing hide-and-seek. A little warmth and a flicker of blue in the sky can do wonders for the spirit – no matter what your age. The Chapples Minor romped contentedly as I took my photographs and I even joined them for a little while. As the brief gap in the weather started to close again, we bundled ourselves back into the car and went in search of the bacon and ice-cream promised at the beginning of the day. Sometime later, as we waited for three large bacon sandwiches to arrive, we discussed what the best sites of the day had been for us. I was of the opinion that each offered something different and special. The castle and church at Ringhaddy had an ‘off the beaten track’ and ‘difficult to access’ cachet to them while Sketrick was a very personal ‘got there at last’ feel to it. Not to be outdone, I thought that Tullynakill filled in part of my education about Nendrum as well as being filled with interesting details in its own right. While I stand by this assessment, my children were more forthright and cutting in their views. Both agreed that Tullynakill was – by far – the best we’d seen as you could have an excellent game of hide-and-seek, while there was still sufficient space to play chasing games too. Well, folks, if you’ve followed this series of posts and enjoyed this adventure on our doorstep you now should have enough information to make an informed decision of where to visit …











Metal enclosure around Richie family plot, dated 1831






Plan of church showing phases of building (Source SM7 file)

Scale drawing of south door and window (Source SM7 file)

Notes:

If you go to the Northern Ireland Sites and Monuments Record [here] you can search for the site as DOW 017:003. The scanned contents of the NIEA’s SM7 file on the site is available [here].