Buku In Search of the Irish Dreamtime: Archaeology & Early Irish Literature by Mallory J. P
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In Search of the Irish Dreamtime: Archaeology & Early Irish Literature by Mallory J. P

Author:Mallory, J. P. [Mallory, J. P.]

Language: eng

Format: azw3

Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd

Published: 2016-05-29T16:00:00+00:00

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In Search of the Irish Dreamtime: Archaeology & Early Irish Literature by Mallory J. P

7.5. ‘Military forks’ of iron that W. K. Sullivan used to illustrate the faga fogablach. The larger is c. 27 cm long.

The sleg also came in a fun-sized version, the slegín.160 And in contrast to the sleg and gae we have the foga, evidently a smaller spear that served as a javelin. As with the selg cóicrind, a number of the descriptions indicate a forked weapon.161 One is described as possessing rivets of burning gold162 while another has thongs attached and rivets of findruine.163

The láigen, yet another weapon that the RIA dictionary treats as a ‘broad-headed’ spear, is clearly large as it covers the lúin of Celtchair and Dubthach.164 While one might regard such a heavy spear as primarily being used for thrusting, in at least one tale we learn that it can also be cast and in so doing can kill nine men at a single go.165

 

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In Search of the Irish Dreamtime: Archaeology & Early Irish Literature by Mallory J. P

Author:Mallory, J. P. [Mallory, J. P.] , Date: June 6, 2019

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Author:Mallory, J. P. [Mallory, J. P.]

Language: eng

Format: azw3

Publisher: Thames and Hudson Ltd

Published: 2016-05-29T16:00:00+00:00
7.5. ‘Military forks’ of iron that W. K. Sullivan used to illustrate the faga fogablach. The larger is c. 27 cm long.

The sleg also came in a fun-sized version, the slegín.160 And in contrast to the sleg and gae we have the foga, evidently a smaller spear that served as a javelin. As with the selg cóicrind, a number of the descriptions indicate a forked weapon.161 One is described as possessing rivets of burning gold162 while another has thongs attached and rivets of findruine.163

The láigen, yet another weapon that the RIA dictionary treats as a ‘broad-headed’ spear, is clearly large as it covers the lúin of Celtchair and Dubthach.164 While one might regard such a heavy spear as primarily being used for thrusting, in at least one tale we learn that it can also be cast and in so doing can kill nine men at a single go.165

The manaís is defined by the RIA dictionary as ‘a large spear with broad head and sharp point’ that, by now as the reader can see, is pretty well indistinguishable from most of the other spears. In some contexts it is clearly a thrusting weapon, as when Cú Chulainn suggests to Fer Diad that since they have not managed to kill each other with throwing spears they might as well have a shot at bringing their duel to an end with ‘great long spears’ for thrusting.166 In another tale, after Maine has skewered Conchobar with his javelin (sleg), he then plies his manaís on him.167 On other occasions, however, there is some evidence that the weapon could be thrown.168 A recurring description tells us that it is mounted on a ‘slender shaft’169 or a shaft of ash.170 We also read that the spear was ‘perforated’,171 or bore ‘neck-rings’.172

Finally, we have that problematic weapon of the Fir Bolg, the cruísech. In the Táin, the cruísech is used interchangeably with the manaís (here it is described as venomous).173 Medb is also described as possessing a cruísech that is ‘keen, sharp-edged and light’.174 We will return to the cruísech below when we discuss the First Battle of Mag Tuired.

If we try to compare this abundance of spear terminology with the archaeological record we must face the depressing problem of a real paucity of archaeological evidence. For the Iron Age, for example, we only have about half a dozen spearheads that we can assign to this period.175 Moreover, the appearance of the spearhead in Ireland, from its emergence in the Early Bronze Age until the historical period, has not changed so radically that it permits us to date most of the descriptions with any great confidence. There are both narrow and wide spearheads, leaf-shaped and shouldered. And that the shaft may be of ash tells us next to nothing as that was the main material for spear-shafts throughout both the prehistoric and historic periods.176

I once suggested a comparison between references to ‘gapped’ spears and types of perforated spears known from the Late Bronze Age177 and, more interestingly, from the Iron Age, where small perforations are to be seen in spears from Roodstown, Co.

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