9 Unmissable Objects from Clontarf 1014

Discover the stories behind these ten unique archaeological artefacts from the Clontarf 1014 exhibition.

1. The Lough Derg Sword

Recovered from Lough Derg, near Curraghmore in Co. Tipperary in 1988, this sword comes from the heart of Brian Boru’s powerbase.

Although it is slightly later than Brian’s time, the Lough Derg Sword is a very fine example of an 11th century sword. It is made of iron and decorated with silver niello and copper alloy.

2. Limerick Silver Neck Ring

This Viking twisted silver neck-ring with spiral terminals was found in Limerick. It is quite a rare type in Irish contexts, being more common in the wider Irish Sea area.

3. The Shrine of the Stowe Missal

The Shrine of the Stowe Missal dates mainly to the mid-11th century and is believed to have held an eighth century Latin mass-book. This image from the side of the shrine shows a warrior figure holding a Viking type sword, with an animal on either side.

An early inscription on the shrine records the name of Donnchadh, Brian’s son, who is described as RIG HEREND ‘king of Ireland’. Recent work has indicated that the inscription must date to between 1026 and 1033. This shows Donnchadh’s ambitions to style himself as high king of Ireland, in the same way as his father, Brian, did.

4. Liathmore Shrine Fragment

One of the very few objects that can be linked directly to Brian Boru is this inscribed fragment from a shrine or reliquary, found at the early monastic site of Liathmore, Co. Tipperary.

The Irish inscription, inlaid in silver lettering, is incomplete but what survives reads: [M]AC CENEDIC DO RIG ER[INN].

Originally it would have requested “A prayer for ..... son of Cennétig, for the King of Ireland”. This can only refer to Brian Boru as high king, who may have been the patron of the shrine.

5. Arrowheads Excavated in Dublin

This selection of arrowheads is from excavations carried out by the National Museum of Ireland at various sites in former Viking Dublin. Arrowheads such as these would have been used by Sitric’s forces at the Battle of Clontarf.

6. Iron Spearheads

Nearly all warriors at the Battle of Clontarf would have used spears – large spears (such as those shown here) for hand-to-hand fighting and smaller spears for throwing at the beginning of the battle.

7. Killaloe Brooch

This silver penannular brooch is based on a traditional Irish form, which was later adopted and influenced by the Vikings. This example, although earlier than Brian Boru, is from Killaloe, Co. Clare, site of Brian’s main residence.

8. Slave Chain

This iron slave chain and collar was found in a dugout canoe near a crannóg in Ardakillen Lake, Co. Roscommon in the mid-19th century. Slavery existed in most early medieval societies, including Ireland. In Dublin, however, it was a very profitable commercial venture.

9. Corrib Axes

These axes were found together in 2013 in a boat in Lough Corrib, and date to the 11th or early 12th century. These classic ‘Viking’ axes almost certainly belonged to Irish warriors, showing how widely the Irish adopted them.

The largest axe probably had a long handle for two-handed use. All three handles were carved from cherry wood (prunus).