Spinning artefacts at the National Museum

Summer; a time for holidays, for not being in work & for doing things for the fun of it. During some recent time off work I visited the National Museum on Kildare Street. I had noticed a couple of spindle whorls in the medieval section on a previous visit and wanted to take a closer look.
Of course, you can't take photos in the museum so I was restricted to making a few sketches.
I was delighted to find more spindles & related artefacts in the Viking section too. Considering my recent attempts to make my own drop spindle I was fascinated by the variety of whorl shapes & materials.

There were whorls made of bone and steatite

A variety of spindle shafts made from copper alloy, wood & bone. Based on appearance alone there were both top-whorl and bottom-whorl spindles in the collection.

In the medieval section there were spindle whorls made of antler, stone & bone. Both were about 1 1/2 - 2 inches in diameter.

Also in the medieval section, there was a wooden object listed as a 'possible yarn winder'. It looks quite like part of a Turkish spindle to my eyes.

Of course there were also samples of fibres, textile fragments & other related bits in the museum but capturing these accurately in a 2 minute sketch would have been very difficult. I really enjoy the museum; I love seeing the artefacts and imagining people making & using these objects many years ago; I also wonder what they would think of their everyday tools ending up in a display case, stared at and admired by visitors hundreds and even thousands of years later. I enjoyed seeing objects that are hundreds of years old and recognising what they were and how they were used; I know that I have very similar tools in my possession; I know that my spinning is contributing to something that is thousands of years old and that makes me feel connected to the people who lived so long ago. I find it comforting that in an age of internet, computers and smartphones that there are quite a number of us still practising these ancient skills, that we're not completely removed from our past.


  1. Fab! post, thanks for sharing your sketches. Must go and visit again asap :D

  2. Thanks guys. I just love old stuff, so I reckon the museum is always worth a visit - all that shiney gold :)

  3. It's funny to read this and realise what cool stuff is actually there, because I'm always down there crawling under desks fixing computers!

    The other thing that's quite interesting is that at the Viking festival that was on at Christchurch last weekend, I saw a viking spinner - using exactly the same spindle as you do :D

  4. Awww I was at last year's Viking fest & saw no sign of such things. Just lads whacking lumps out of each other's shields, which was entertaining.

    I suppose spindle technology fits under the heading of 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it!'


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