Covering a period from 800AD to 1200AD, the medieval gallery tells the story of the High Kings, the Brehon Laws and the coming of the Vikings.
In this exhibit
Along with the Sheela-na-gigs in this room, there are fine examples of medieval brooches, potsherds, axe-heads, spear-heads, stone heads, food vessels, bog butter and a comb made from animal bone, mostly donated by the National Museum of Ireland. The Cavan Mace, an eighteenth-century mace made from solid silver, was also on display here prior to its installation in the Ulster Museum, Belfast.
Brehon Laws: the ancient laws of Ireland, known as 'Brehon Laws', were spread by the Celts who arrived in Ireland around c.500 B.C. Almost 1000 years after arriving in Ireland, these laws were written down for the first time and continued to be used for almost another 1000 years.
They formed the legal code of the Irish people in various disputes, and for crimes which ranged from murder and rape to trespassing dogs. The Statutes of Kilkenny in 1366 were the first serious attempt by English authority to lessen the influence of the Brehon Laws, but it was not until the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that these customs finally died out in Ireland.
Here are just some examples of these Brehon Laws:
- It is a more serious offence to kill a woman than to kill a man. The murderer shall have a hand and a foot cut off and he shall be put to death. His kin shall pay the price of 21 milk cows to her family.
- If you wound a fellow tribes-person, you must take him or her to your own house, feed them according to the doctor's advice, provide the victim with medicine, and find a substitute to do his or her work while recuperating. You must also pay the doctor's fee.
- It is illegal to satirise a tribesman for a physical defect he was born with.