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ancient christian brooch found in peat fire ashes

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Irish History Forum Discussion:     ancient christian brooch found in peat fire ashes

really amazing and lucky find from irish fire turf.

early christian brooch found in ballylongford
over 1,400 years after christians first began spreading the gospel in kerry a ballylongford family has made the startling find of a bronze brooch in the peat ashes of their range, bridging the time gap in an instant and stunning archaeologists.

the brooch which is embossed with a cross has been described as a national treasure and is dated to earliest christian times in kerry over 1,400 years ago.

the second cross of its kind ever to be found in the county, it is to go on display at the kerry museum for posterity in the coming months.

buried deep in the bog of tullahinell for a millenium and a half, the brooch found itself in human fingers once again as pat joe and sheila edgeworth of mortara, ballylongford, went to inspect a puzzling item stuck in the grate of their range.

"sheila found it while cleaning the grate. 'what in the name of god is this?" she asked me. i said it looked like half a donkey's mouth-bit as they were always drawing turf out with donkeys," pat joe explained.

"it was blackened from the fire, but as we looked at it closer and cleaned it up i had a good idea it was a brooch, because it was similar to ones i had seen in books," he added.

it had been drawn from the edgeworth's own plot at the bog and was cut out by machine last summer. the last person to have touched the piece is thought to have been a religious man of some standing. but for lodging in the grate, his brooch might well have returned to the land.

the tullahinell brooch is now in the national paint decorating the metalwork.

the tale recalls that of the duagh ciborium, the penal times chalice that was lost when british soliders routed a rock mass outside the village in the 1600s. the ciborium found its way right back to its parish home over 300 years later, when a priest noticed it lodged in a sod of turf as he went to throw it on the fire in the presbytery. museum of ireland for dating and cleaning.

"they make out it was a religious man who would have worn it, to fasten his cape, as there was a cross on it. they told us that if it had been made of iron it wouldn't have survived in the bog, but as it was bronze it was kept in good condition," pat joe added.

experts say the only damage caused to the brooch by the fire is the likely loss of red enamel

dnolan kerryman.ie


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By Anne Lucey and Shane Hickey

Thursday February 04 2010

IT is a diamond in the turf. A Kerry woman stumbled upon a major archaeological find while cleaning out the fireplace in her home.

Sheila Edgeworth, from Martara in Ballylongford, found a 1,400-year-old brooch dating from early Christian times after it is thought to have become lodged in a sod of turf which ended up in her fire.

It is believed the brooch was used to fasten the cloak of a clergyman and was dropped on a forest road that eventually became a turf bog.

The whole north Kerry area alongside the Shannon, where Sheila and her husband Pat Joe live, is covered in early Christian ruins.

"Sheila found it while cleaning the grate. 'What in the name of God is this?' she asked me. I said it looked like half a donkey's mouth-bit as they were always drawing turf out with donkeys," Mr Edgeworth said.

"It was blackened from the fire, but as we looked at it closer and cleaned it up I had a good idea it was a brooch, because it was similar to the ones I had seen in books."

The discovery is even more remarkable because the brooch survived the production process from when it was cut by machine and drawn from the bog.

Decorated

The precious find is known by archaeologists as a "zoomorphic penannular brooch" developed in Ireland in the sixth and seventh centuries.

Griffin Murray, the collections officer at Kerry County Museum, said it is "particularly interesting" because it is decorated on its terminals with two crosses, meaning that at the very least its original owner was a Christian, and most likely a member of the clergy.

"Stylistically the brooch can be dated to around 600AD. It is a rare example of a piece of jewellery belonging to one of the earliest Christians in Ireland, only a generation after St Brendan.

"For that reason, it is a very exciting find," he said.

The brooch has now been handed over to the museum, as all archeological objects have to be under legislation.

- Anne Lucey and Shane Hickey

Irish Independent

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