Archaeology Magazine

A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America

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Treasures of Rathfarnham Castle

Monday, February 09, 2015



While undertaking restoration work at Dublin’s Rathfarnham Castle, archaeologists recently discovered a “treasure trove” that offers a rare glimpse into life in seventeenth-century Ireland. The artifacts include a foldable toothbrush, clay pipes, jewelry, porcelain, coins, chamber pots, intact goblets, and early wine bottles. The items, among 1,700 other objects, had been left inside a wash pit and sealed beneath a stone floor that perfectly preserved them. Exactly how the items got there is still being established. They may have been hidden when the castle was attacked, or placed there for washing and never retrieved. In any case, archaeologists believe that the artifacts belonged to a specific household, most likely that of Adam Loftus, grandson of Archbishop Adam Loftus, who served as Queen Elizabeth’s chief envoy to Ireland and who originally built the castle. “These artifacts give us a rare and intimate insight into the lavish lifestyle of the castle’s residents at the time. What makes it all the more exciting is that most of the artifacts are high-end imported goods from as far away as China, which tells us that Ireland may have been more fashionable at the time than previously thought,” says Antoine Giacometti, one of the chief archaeologists working on the project. Rathfarnham Castle will reopen to visitors in 2015 with the artifacts planned to go on public display.