The Breathtaking Caherduggan Belt: Rubicon’s Best Ever Find?

Some readers may recall one of last year’s posts about a find from our excavations for Cork County Council at Caherduggan Castle, Co. Cork. A medieval well produced a seemingly complete leather belt with what we thought were ‘metal studs’ along its length. Now conserved, these ‘metal studs’ have been revealed as heraldic shields, placed on what must surely rank as one of the greatest surviving secular medieval leather objects from medieval Ireland.

The leather belt following its discovery by Hubert Ficner in the Caherduggan Castle Well

The leather belt following its discovery by Hubert Ficner in the Caherduggan Castle Well

When Susannah Kelly of UCD completed the belts conservation she passed it to leather specialist John Nicholl who is currently analysing it. The condition and quality of the belt has surpassed all our wildest expectations, and it truly ranks as a ‘Museum Piece.’ John has kindly allowed us to share some of his photographs of the item with our readers; these shots were taken yesterday as he continues his work on the analysis. You will note that the hinged Heraldic shields appear to carry a Lion Rampant as a motif!

A detail shot showing the stunning condition of the belt, replete with hinged heraldic motifs (Photo: John Nicholl)

A detail shot showing the stunning condition of the belt, replete with hinged heraldic motifs (Photo: John Nicholl)

John’s initial thoughts are that it may be a scabbard belt of possible 14th or 15th century date, though analysis is at a very early stage so this interpretation may change. The buckles have been cut down and reused on the object, which would undoubtedly have been a valuable item when it was discarded. It is unclear if the heraldic symbols represent a nobility affiliation or if they serve a purely decorative function, but it is hoped heraldic analysis will clarify some of these issues.

One side of the Caherduggan belt showing the buckle and Heraldic motifs (Photo: John Nicholl)

One side of the Caherduggan belt showing the buckle and Heraldic motifs (Photo: John Nicholl)

The excitement in the Rubicon office today is palpable, as everyone waits with bated breath to find out more about this exquisite find. It certainly ranks as one of the greatest archaeological objects we have ever encountered, and as we learn more about its remarkable story we will be sure share that with you ‘as it happens’ on the blog.

The other side of the belt with the second buckle and full view of the hinged Heraldic motifs (Photo: John Nicholl)

The other side of the belt with the second buckle and full view of the hinged Heraldic motifs (Photo: John Nicholl)

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