Display for medieval brooch found in fire

 

AN EARLY medieval brooch found in the remnants of a turf fire in a north Kerry range earlier this year, went on permanent display at the Kerry County Museum in Tralee last night.

The Martara brooch, was found in the grate of the range of Sheila and Pat Joe Edgeworth of Martara, Ballylongford last February.

It was found in machine-cut turf in Mr Edgworth’s bog nearby at Tullahennell, one of the vast boglands of north Kerry in the summer of 2009.

At first the Edgworths thought the strange object Sheila found cleaning out the grate was part of a donkey’s mouth bit, but Pat Joe’s suspicions were aroused from the memory of pictures he had seen in books.

Archaeologists, delighted with the find, have described the brooch’s survival for 1,400 years – especially having gone through modern machinery and then fire – as remarkable.

The return of the brooch follows months of conservation work and analysis at the conservation department of the National Museum of Ireland.

Scientific analysis carried out there found it was originally decorated with red enamel and had a bright tin appearance.

It would have been used as a cloak fastener of a nobleman or most likely a senior clergyman and was possibly dropped on a roadway through a woodland which later became part of the extensive bog near Ballylongford, archaeologists believe.

It is only the third ever brooch found in Kerry and this is despite “loads of settlement evidence” during the medieval period, including crosses and early church monuments, Griffin Murray, collections officer with the Kerry County Museum, said yesterday.

The lack of such jewellery given the settlement evidence perplexes archaeologists, he said.

“What makes it particularly special are the Chi-Rho [Greek] symbols on the brooch’s terminals,” Mr Murray explained.

“This is an early Christian symbol rarely found in Ireland, which represents the first two letters of Christ’s name in the Greek alphabet,” he said.

The brooch has been dated between the sixth and seventh centuries, about a generation after St Brendan and is unlikely to have originated in Kerry, he added.

The brooch’s unveiling last night coincided with the launch of a new book by the museum entitled Medieval Treasures of County Kerry,a collection of essays by various experts on the county’s masterpieces of medieval art and archaeology.