1798 sword gets pride of place in Ot­tawa expo

Gorey Guardian - - NEWS - By DAVID LOOBY

A BRONZE AGE sword used in the Bat­tle of New Ross 220 years ago in the 1798 re­bel­lion is one of the main Ir­ish ex­hibits at Ot­tawa’s mu­seum in Canada.

The sword – which was most likely found dur­ing drainage works in the Bar­row­side town – re­sides in the Royal On­tario Mu­seum in Canada.

Trans­port In­fra­struc­ture Ire­land ar­chae­ol­o­gist James Eo­gan said: ‘It is one of the most sig­nif­i­cant his­tor­i­cal ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ob­jects as­so­ci­ated with New Ross – in terms of the town’s pre­his­toric pe­riod. The blade is in­cred­i­bly well pre­served. New Ross is very well-known for its medieval pe­riod, but not for its pre­his­tory.’

Mr Eo­gan – who is over the New Ross By­pass ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dig – said the town’s an­cient his­tory needs to be un­earthed and brought to the fore.

He said the an­cient blade was prised from the hands of a dead rebel fighter in 1798.

The un­named war­rior had gone to war not with an iron pike like so many of his com­pa­tri­ots, but some­thing much older. He died clasp­ing a weapon not seen on a bat­tle­field for over 2,500 years – a Late Bronze Age sword.

In the sum­mer of 1798 when the county ex­pe­ri­enced the in­fa­mous up­ris­ing against Bri­tish rule in which all man­ner of weapons were used to de­fend the county’s cit­i­zens. Lead by the United Ir­ish Men, a largely peas­ant army swept through the county, cap­tur­ing first the towns of En­nis­cor­thy and Wex­ford. Next they marched on the river­side port of New Ross, where they met with stub­born re­sis­tance.

On the morn­ing of June 5 the rebel army charged the town’s de­fences. Armed mainly with pikes they were met with mus­ket, grape-shot and can­non fire, which caused dev­as­ta­tion amongst their ranks, Wex­ford ar­chae­ol­o­gist Cor­mac Mo­ri­arty re­counted in a story in the Ir­ish ar­chae­ol­ogy website.

‘The fight­ing raged for most of the day and was ex­tremely bloody, with es­ti­mates sug­gest­ing that close to 3,000 men were killed. By evening the rebels were in full re­treat, and the streets of New Ross lay lit­tered with their dead. In the fol­low­ing days, as the bod­ies of the fallen were col­lected, an un­usual weapon was re­trieved from one of the rebel ca­su­al­ties, a Late Bronze Age sword.’

This fine, leaf-shaped blade was in re­mark­ably good con­di­tion for a c. 2,500 year old arte­fact. The only mod­i­fi­ca­tion the rebel fighter had made to the sword, to make it bat­tle wor­thy again, was to add a crude leather han­dle, which was at­tached with iron riv­ets.

Over 400 sim­i­lar Late Bronze Age swords are known from Ire­land, the vast ma­jor­ity hav­ing be­ing re­cov­ered from wa­tery con­texts such as rivers, lakes or bogs.

The orig­i­nal find place of the New Ross sword re­mains un­known, as does the name and burial place of its last owner, the Wex­ford rebel.

The sword on dis­play in the Royal On­tario Mu­seum in Ot­tawa, Canada.

The leather han­dle used for the sword.

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