It looks at first like a piece of a rough, greenish mat from a 1970s student flat. In fact it is a 5,000-year-old handbag.
Found in a bog in Twyford, Co Westmeath, it was made by coiling long slivers of wood into spirals that were then bound together with lighter grass-like material. Next the two sides were woven together along a seam, and handles of plaited straw were added. This would have made for a circular purse-like bag, about 40cm in diameter, with a narrow opening at the top. It was probably dyed to give it a splash of colour. It gives us a glimpse into the everyday life of early Irish farmers. Though we cannot know for sure, there is every chance that it was made and used by a woman.
Similar bags have been found around the world: the technique goes back to the Middle East around 4800 BC and is still used by indigenous cultures. In fact, the best way to get a sense of the Twyford bag is to look at a very similar but intact specimen (right) that is also in the National Museum of Ireland. It comes from 19th-century Aboriginal Australia.
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