Blog post

Highlights of the Hunt Museum: Irish and international archaeology collections

Archaeological highlights from The Hunt Museum's collections of antiquities, fine and decorative art.

The Hunt Museum (opens in new window)

Europeana displays the digitised collections of museums, galleries, libraries and archives from all across Europe - north, south, east and west. One of the most westerly museums featured is The Hunt Museum in Limerick in the south west of Ireland.

The Hunt Museum opened in 1997 to display John and Gertrude Hunt’s collections of antiquities, fine and decorative art. The Hunts wished the collection to remain together and be accessible to the people of Ireland, to inspire an interest in cultural heritage.

Housed in Limerick’s Palladian Custom House, the museum features more than 2000 art, cultural and archeological objects spanning in age from the Neolithic to the 21st century. Let's explore some highlights.

EXPLORE MORE: The Hunt Museum's archaeology collections

Irish archaeology

Stone tools known as lithics form one group of objects - from tiny flint scrapers to polished stone axeheads. Many came from the landscape near the Hunt family home, at Lough Gur near Limerick City.

This polished porcellanite axehead highlights pre-historic Irish trade networks. Porcellanite has two sources in Ireland, both in the north of the island - Tievebulliagh in Antrim and Brockley on Rathlin Island, off the north coast of Ireland. Both were used in prehistory to quarry stone for axehead production.

This small, beautiful bronze socketed and looped axehead from County Armagh was possibly used for woodworking or carpentry. The axe displays significant developments in metalworking, which occurred during the Bronze Age. This style heralded the final phase of the Irish Bronze Age, The Dowris Phase.

EXPLORE MORE: Archaeology gallery of axeheads

International objects

International objects in the Hunt Collection include an intricately constructed bronze, spectacle brooch and a Roman gilt bronze brooch.

This spectacle fibula comprises a brooch made from a length of round wire gently worked and folded into two tightly wound coils separated by a tiny twisted figure of eight, in what is known as early Hallstatt style.

This Roman crossbow fibula represents the end of the chronology of Roman brooches. Such objects, while seemingly decorative, function also in representing social status and wealth of the wearer.

This Greek vase is in the shape of a hand clasping a lekythion, a miniature oil jar (HCM 233). It is shaped differently to other Greek vases in the Hunt Collection. Despite its uniqueness, it belongs to a group of Greek vessels known as 'plastic vases' but made from clay and painted. Here the hand is painted white possibly indicating that it is female.

This blog post is a part of the Europeana Archaeology project, which digitises Europe’s rich heritage of archaeological monuments, historic buildings, cultural landscapes and artefacts.

Ireland archaeology