Plate representing three separate items of antiquarian interest: a brass sword excavated from a bog near Cullen; a small silver crown found near Cashel, and a tumulus near Tipperary.
Inscribed in Image
|Genre||Scientific or Technical illustration|
|Subject(s)||Antiquities and archaeological sites|
|Keywords(s)||Antiquities, Archaeological sites, Brass, Crowns, Daggers & swords, Silver|
|Dimensions||17 cm x 15.4 cm|
|Published / created||1778|
|Travel Account||A Philosophical Survey of the South of Ireland|
|Print or manuscript|
|Location of image in copy||opp. p. 160|
|Source copy||National Library of Ireland J.91414.CAN/1778|
This is a link to a digital copy hosted by an external website.
|Rights||Courtesy of the National Library of Ireland|
Related text from travel account
IN Mr. Armstrong's library, I have found great entertainment, not only from the books, but from some antique curiosities, found in the neighbouring bogs; and from a catalogue of others, not now in his possession. These are of such importance to the forming just ideas of the ancient state of Ireland, that I would transmit you a catalogue of them, only I find governor Pownall has published, from the same original I have seen, a copy in the miscellaneous tracts of the Antiquarian Society.
I send you, however, a sketch of a little crown of silver, lately found near Cashel; the diameter of which is 2½, and the height 3½ inches. It must, I conjecture, have belonged to some image of the vir- [p.157] gin, or rather child, either in the cathedral, or some of the monasteries of Cashel.
I give you also, by way of illustration, a rough draft of a tumulus near this town, amidst hillocks nearly of the same shape, and overhanging a glassy lake. These tumuli are mounds of earth thrown up, as sepulchral monuments, in form of a truncated cone; and of dimensions different, I presume, according to the dignity of the deceased,
—fuit ingens monte sub alto
Regis Dercenni terreno ex agere bustum.—
Such monuments could be raised only for persons of the first quality. And from a line in Lucan one would think they were appropriated to kings.
Et regum cineres extructo monte quiescunt.
But Plutarch, relating the death of Demaratus, the Corinthian, upon a visit he paid to Alexander the Great, says, "That he had a most magnificent funeral, the whole army raising him a monument of earth, four-score cubits high, and of a vast circumference."
These monuments are vulgarly called Danes-mounts. Yet, wherever they have [p.158] been opened, urns have been found in them; a circumstance, which alone disproves their being Danish. For the practice of burning the dead was disused long before the Danes possessed themselves of Ireland, or rather of the maritime towns; for I do not find that their dominion extended to the internal parts.
Had these mounts been thrown up by the Danes; from the odium in which, even to this day, the memory of those invaders is held, the Irish would not have failed to demolish such memorials of their own disgrace, as soon as they had expelled the authors of it. But, so far are they from destroying them, that they hold them in veneration, and it would be difficult to find a labourer hardy enough to violate the sacred earth, with a spade.
Herodotus speaking of the tombs, raised by the Scythians for their kings, says, "they laboured to raise as high a mount of earth for them as possible." These artificial hills then must be attributed to the Scythian origin of this people. I was surprised to find the ingenious Mr. Molineux ascribing them to the Danes, espe- [p.159] cially as he mentions two coins of the emperors Theodosius and Valentinian, being found in that famous Tumulus, at New Grange, near Drogheda. This, though not a decisive evidence, is certainly a presumptive one, that these sepulchres were anterior to the Danes in Ireland; and the rather, as those coins are described to be sharp and unworn.
Such mounts, however, are not peculiar to Ireland: I have seen some of the same kind in Scotland, and there are no less than six in a line, within a mile or two south of the little village of Stevenage in Hertfordshire.
I send you as exact a drawing as I could make, of a brass sword, found in a bog near Cullen, which is twenty-six inches in length, and weighs near two pounds. Mr. Armstrong says, he has seen twenty-two others of nearly the same construction, found in the same place. The catalogue, to which I have referred you, mentions that above 300 have, from time to time, been found in this quarter.
What makes these brazen swords such a valuable remnant to the Irish antiquarian, is, they serve to corroborate the opinion, [p.160] that the Phoenicians had footing in this kingdom. For the sword-blades so lately found upon the plains of Cannae, were of the same metal and construction; and being used by the Carthaginians, who were originally Tyrians, they establish the certainty, that these brass weapons were Phoenician also. Consequently, somewhat more than presumption arises, that Ireland had its arts, and letters, from the country of Cadmus; as her traditions uniformly report.