Exploring history up close with DU Archaeology and Claoimh

Students tried out swords, longbows and chainmail in an interactive talk in the Arts block with the Archaeology society

On Friday evening, DU Archaeology Society traced history through weaponry and material, with a fascinating talk and the opportunity to see artefacts including replicas of swords and armour. The ‘Irish Invasion’ talk was presented by Claoimh Living History, one of Ireland’s leading historical reenactment companies.

From the beginning, the talk drew a large and enthusiastic crowd and the room was packed with students. David, a member of Claoimh was energetic and full of knowledge to share. He explained how the company has provided weaponry and archaeological advice to over fifty films and tv shows over the years. As well as this, the company reenact battles and costumes from ancient times with highly accurate replicas at festivals throughout Ireland.

The talk began with information on the artefacts and culture of 800 A.D. Starting at the Viking Age, the talk moved to Medieval Europe until the Normans and into the 16th century. At the front of the room stood a massive, eclectic pile of replicas and with every artefact, he explained the history and function in highly impressive detail. After discussing how they accurately construct their replicas, the artefacts were passed around throughout the audience for all to observe. Photos of the re-enactment company in costume from points in history were also shown for students to get a sense of how the armour and weaponry appeared.

There was an unbelievably rich and numerous variety of artefacts shown over the course of the event. One such replica of the Viking age was a large shield of pigskin with a traditional swirling red and white design. Many helmets were shown such as the gjermundbu, the bascinet, to the motrion which was made through wax acid sketching. He explained the differences across Europe from Sweden, Denmark, Scotland, to those uncovered all over Ireland. He also referred to the depiction of medieval weaponry and dress by Albecht Dürer.

In particular, there were many swords and daggers of varying size, origin and style. It varied from the elegant Venetian sword to the large Highland sword which was slow and cumbersome in battle. There were also authentic leather sheaths and it was noted the inner sheepskin had natural oils that cleaned the blades. A longbow and several types of axe were also displayed. Moving through the ages, a classic Irish caliver was shown and bottles that were worn to carry powder for the muskets in battle.

Towards the end, traditional dress and textiles were spoken about and shown. To close the talk, he gave podcast recommendations including the Viking Age podcast and Irish History for those who wish to learn even more. He received a well-deserved round of applause as his talk came to a close.

Following this, students could interact with the artefacts and try out the swords and shields for themselves. Meanwhile, members of the society captured photos and it seemed as if every individual in the room was in armour or grasping a weapon. When all swords were sheathed, members journeyed to the Longstone for drinks to celebrate the success of their event.

Maeve Breathnach

Maeve Breathnach is the current Assistant Societies Editor of Life. She is a Junior Fresh English Literature and Maths student.