Browsing Archaeology - Doctoral Theses by Title
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- ItemAn archaeology of female monasticism in medieval Ireland(University College Cork, 2016) Collins, Tracy E.; Ó Carragáin, TomásThis thesis considers the archaeological evidence for female monasticism in medieval Ireland, with a particular emphasis on the later medieval period. Female monasticism has been considered from an archaeological perspective in several countries, most notably Britain, but has yet to be considered in any detail in Ireland. The study aims to bring together all the currently available evidence on female monasticism and consider it through an engendered archaeological approach. The data gathering for this research has been deliberately wide, and where gaps have been identified in the Irish evidence, comparative material from elsewhere has been considered. Nunneries should not be expected to conform to what has become the male monastic template of a claustrally-planned monastery. The research conducted shows a distinct and varied archaeology and architecture for medieval nunneries in Ireland which suggests that a claustral plan was not considered an essential part of a nunnery scheme. Nunneries provided an enclosed environment where women, for a variety of motives could become brides of Christ. Through the performance and celebration of the daily Divine Office, the Mass and seasonal liturgy, spaces used by the nunnery community were negotiated and transformed into a sacred Paradise on earth. However, rather than being isolated in the landscape nunneries in later medieval Ireland were located either within or close to walled towns, larger unenclosed settlements and settlement clusters and would have been well known throughout their hinterlands. This research concludes that nunneries were an intrinsic part of the medieval monastic landscape in Ireland and an essential component of patrons’ portfolios of patronage, at a particularly local level, and where they interacted closely with their local community.
- ItemAn assessment of health in post-medieval Ireland: ‘One vast Lazar house filled with famine, disease and death’(University College Cork, 2014) Lynch, Linda G.; Ó Donnabháin, BarraThree indicators of health and diet were selected to examine the health status in three socioeconomic groups in post-medieval Ireland. The aim was to examine the reliability of traditional skeletal markers of health in highly contextualised populations. The link between socio-economic status and health was examined to determine if traditional linking of poor health with poverty was evident in skeletal samples. The analysis indicated that this was indeed the case and that health was significantly compromised in populations of low socio-economic status. Thus it indicated that status intimately influences the physical body form. Sex was also found to be a major defining factor in the response of an individual to physiological stress. It was also evident that contemporary populations may suffer from different physiological stresses, and their responses to those stresses may differ. Adaptation was a key factor here. This has implications for studies of earlier populations that may lack detailed contextual data in terms of blanket applications of interpretations. The results also show a decline in health from the medieval through to the post-medieval period, which is intimately linked with the immense social changes and all the related effects of these. The socio-economic structure of post-medieval Ireland was a direct result of the British policies in Ireland. The physical form of the Irish may be seen to have occurred as a result of those policies, with the Irish poor in particular suffering substantial health problems, even in contrast to the poor of Britain. This study has enriched the recorded historical narrative of this period of the recent past, and highlights more nuanced narratives may emerge from the osteoarchaeological analysis when sound contextual information is available. It also examines a period in Irish history that, until very recently, had been virtually untouched in terms of archaeological study.
- ItemThe Baltinglass landscape and the hillforts of Bronze Age Ireland(University College Cork, 2016) O'Driscoll, James; O'Brien, William; Irish Research Council; Kildare Archaeological SocietyAround 1400 BC, Bronze Age communities in many parts Ireland began to construct large enclosures, known as hillforts, on strategically positioned hilltops overlooking broad expanses of lowland. The enclosing elements acted as the visible manifestation of elite authority and power, and the perceived ownership of the land, people and resources within a particular territory. As a central place in the local landscape, the hillfort performed multiple functions for a disparate community, and became a symbol of communal identity. Evidence for the comprehensive destruction of some hillforts suggests they were targeted by rival groups who may have sought to seize control of a local routeway, resource or people. Hillforts are often considered indicative of Late Bronze Age warfaring practices. In Ireland, the emergence of this monument type coincided with the first appearance of the sword and shield, and can be linked with a European-wide warrior tradition. This coincided with a sudden and severe intensification of hillfort construction on the Continent, many of which, upon excavation, have shown evidence of destruction and violence. The Late Bronze Age in Ireland and Europe is generally regarded as an important period of social, economic and political re-organisation, with the construction of hillforts at the centre of these changes in society. They can provide information about the socio-political and economic climate of the period, as well as the nature and scale of conflict, inter-personal violence and power. Despite this, research of Irish hillforts is a neglected field that has not kept pace with hillfort studies in Britain or the Continent. The project will focus on a group of monuments near Baltinglass, Co. Wicklow, described by Condit as ‘Ireland’s hillfort capital’. This will be the first comprehensive interdisciplinary study of that landscape and the first detailed study of any hillfort cluster in prehistoric Ireland. The Wicklow cluster comprises nine of the largest hillforts in Ireland. The project provides an opportunity to expand our knowledge of this unique grouping, as well as the entire corpus of Irish hillforts. The results help contextualize the significance of this area on a national level, assessing its socio-political, economic and ideological importance in contemporary society. More specifically, it assesses the form, functions, economy and strategic positioning of these monuments, using a combination of desk-top research, GIS (Geographic Information Systems), LiDAR (Light Detecting and Ranging), geophysical surveying techniques and conventional fieldwork.
- ItemA craniometric study of population dynamics and social organisation in the European upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic(University College Cork, 2014) Brewster, Ciarán; O'Brien, William; Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social SciencesThe purpose of this study is to explore aspects of social organisation during the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic periods using craniometric data. Different hypotheses were tested using geometric morphometrics, alongside traditional craniometric data. The clustering of individuals from the same site, as well as a correspondence to an isolation-by-distance model—particular in the Mesolithic samples—points to population structure within these groups. Moreover, discontinuities in cranial traits between the early Upper Palaeolithic and later periods could suggest that the Last Glacial Maximum had a disruptive effect on populations in Europe. Differences in social organisation can often result from cultural norms regarding post-marital residence. Such differences can be tested by comparing cranial data to that of geographic information. Greater variation in male cranial traits relative to females, after controlling for location, suggests that the overall pattern of residence during the Upper Palaeolithic and Mesolithic was one of matrilocality. It has been suggested that coastal occupation was density dependent and these populations show a greater degree of sedentism than their inland counterparts. Moreover, it has been proposed that coastal areas were not continuously occupied until the Late Pleistocene due to spatial restrictions that would adversely affect reproductive opportunities. This study corroborates the pattern seen in cranial traits corresponded with that of a more sedentary population. The results are consistent with the hypothesis that coastal populations are more sedentary than inland populations during these periods. This study adds new information regarding the social dynamics of prehistoric populations in Europe and sheds light on some of the conditions that may have paved the way for the transition to agriculture
- ItemThe earliest church sites in Ireland AD 400 – 550: landscape archaeology and the process of conversion(University College Cork, 2018) Talbot, Thomas; Ó Carragáin, Tomás; Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social SciencesBy adopting a multi-scalar landscape archaeology approach, this study seeks to provide a new perspective on the introduction of Christianity into Ireland. A corpus of the earliest churches in Ireland (c.110 sites) is compiled and mapped. This shows a distinctive island-wide pattern of early church foundations (c. AD 400-550), which differs significantly from the pattern of later monastic foundations. A recurring association between conversion period church sites and sites of royal significance and assembly is demonstrated. This is confirmed by a more detailed ‘middle-scale’ analysis of the best-documented thirty sites. The location of many of these church sites on prominent positions within these landscapes suggests that regional and local kings were active participants in the process of conversion and that some, at least, were well-disposed towards, or at least tolerant of, the new religion. At the same time, this analysis identified clear evidence for variation between these landscapes. Differences in the number and positioning of church sites within a polity suggests they varied in character and function, and that trajectories and strategies of conversion varied significantly also, due to factors such as local political circumstances. This variety is explored further through three in-depth case studies: the landscape of Domnach Mór Maige Áine, Co. Limerick, which is characterised by a single substantial church embedded within a royal landscape; Uí Thuirtre, Co. Tyrone, which features a cluster of early churches of varying character (the densest identified to date) within another royal landscape; and Domnach Mór Mittíne, Co. Cork, where the inter-relationships of early churches and other indicators of literacy, namely ogham stones, is explored.
- ItemEarly medieval sculpture in southeast Ireland: identities, landscape and memory(University College Cork, 2020) Colbert, Kate; Ó Carragáin, Tomás; Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social SciencesThis project investigates early medieval (c. AD 400–1200) sculpted stones as commemorative technologies and agents of cultural transmission, instilled with an array of meanings that varied between individuals and over time. Using the southeast of Ireland as a case study, it considers the sculpture in five modern counties – Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny, Waterford, and South Tipperary – within which were a range of ecclesiastical sites, including some of ‘national’ importance such as Lismore and Ferns. The core aim of this study is to expand our understanding of carved stones and their role in early medieval society by examining why these monuments were created and how people interacted with them, as well as the meanings and values with which they imbued their surrounding landscape. Some of the questions explored in this thesis are why some sites invest in sculpture while others do not, why sculpture is produced at certain times during the life of a site and not others, and what these carved stones can tell us about the priorities and social identities of their communities. Analyses were often augmented by computational imaging tools – primarily photogrammetry, though reflectance transformation imaging (RTI), and geographic information systems (GIS) were also selectively applied – as a means to enhance the examination and interpretation of pieces with particularly worn or weathered carvings. By utilising a synthesis of recording techniques and theoretical approaches, it is hoped that a more fully comprehensive study of the early medieval sculpture of this region has been achieved. High crosses and otherwise undecorated ogham stones were not surveyed, as several studies on these monuments have already been done, or are ongoing. Instead, this project focused on other stone monuments with sculpture, e.g. grave-markers, boundary markers, portable stone objects, etc. Altogether, 260 carved stones were analysed for this study, distributed across 53 sites. A wide variety of monument-types are represented in this region, including some for which there are only a handful of examples in Ireland, e.g. sundials, tau crosses, gable finials, etc. The distribution of sculpture shows that major ecclesiastical sites in the southeast, particularly Emly, the premier church of Munster, did not invest heavily in stone sculpture, and, instead, chose to invest most of their resources elsewhere. This is in stark contrast to several other major ecclesiastical sites in Ireland, e.g. Clonmacnoise, Glendalough, and Iniscealtra, which produced hundreds of pieces of stone sculpture. Additionally, some of the more significant findings to come out of this thesis are the subjects of stand-alone chapters. A reassessment of the large assemblage of sculpture at St Berrihert’s Kyle, Co. Tipperary was undertaken due to the reorganisation of several carved stones at the site since this collection was last published. Sculpture appears to have been a specialty of St Berrihert’s Kyle, especially in the 8th century. This site, and the nearby Toureen Peakaun, together contain one of the highest concentrations of 7th–8th century grave-markers in Ireland, and yet, stylistically, the sculpture at these two sites are markedly different. This seems to suggest that ‘house styles’, as well as preferred monument forms, reflect the development of separate ecclesiastical identities, even between communities with close links. A group of four ‘marigold’ stones were identified in Co. Wexford with shared hagiographical, socio-political and ecclesiastical links, both with each other and with several Welsh churches, particularly St David’s. More importantly, this group of stones present us with physical evidence for ties between specific religious foundations around and across the Irish Sea, which have been hitherto difficult to identify. At the ecclesiastical site of Clonmore in Co. Carlow, components of at least one, possibly two, composite stone shrines were discovered. This new archaeological evidence, together with its already considerable assemblage of early medieval sculpture, supports a number of textual sources of the period that claim Clonmore housed a significant collection of corporeal saints' relics. Moreover, the cult of relics which had been built around this collection differed markedly in its expression from most other relic cults across Ireland and, to an extent, elsewhere in Western Europe — indicating that the cult of relics in Ireland was perhaps more diverse in its character and material manifestations than previously assumed.
- ItemHealth in the medieval world: Regionality and the bioarchaeology of Ireland and Britain(University College Cork, 2014) Tesorieri, Mara Lee; O'Donnabhain, BarraThis study assesses regional health patterns in early medieval Ireland and Britain by analysing and interpreting palaeopathological indicators of stress. This was achieved by incorporating the results of demographic and palaeopathological study into the specific historical contexts. Although relatively small islands, both are home to unique and diverse cultural, physical, and political landscapes, which could potentially affect the general health of the population in different ways. To accurately answer the research question, a bioarchaeological survey of six regions within both islands was carried out, specifically analysing and comparing the demographic profile and general health trends within each region with one another. Results from the analysis have demonstrated statistically significant differences within and between the islands. Inferring that even the more subtle differences observed within the cultural, physical, and political landscapes, such as in the case of Ireland and Britain, can and do affect general health trends. The health of early medieval Ireland and Britain appears to be significantly affected by the physical landscape, specifically a north/south divide. The most northerly regions, Scotland South and Ireland North, manifested higher levels of stress indicators when compared to the more southerly positioned regions. Although it can only be hypothesised what factors within these regions are causing, enhancing or buffering stress, the study has established the potential and necessity for regional work to be continued when interpreting the historical past of these two islands.
- ItemIreland and France 2500–1900 BC: evidence for contacts and influences(University College Cork, 2019) Burlot, Aurélien; O'Brien, WilliamDuring the first half of the 3rd millennium BC Ireland experienced significant cultural changes in what is known as the Late Neolithic period. The introduction of copper metallurgy sometime in the 25th century BC coincided with the arrival of new cultural influences that originated in mainland Europe, represented in archaeological terms by a distinctive range of pottery now called Beaker, and by other material innovations. Another important development at that time was a renewal of the megalithic tomb tradition in the form of the wedge tomb, some five centuries after such monuments had ceased to be built in Ireland. It has long been suggested that these developments were driven by external contacts, the most important of which were from Atlantic France. While copper metallurgy had already been practised in southern France by 3000 BC, the spread of this technology to Armorica (north-west France) came somewhat later, coincident with the circulation of Beaker material culture with some Iberian influences. The fact that the allées couvertes, a Late Neolithic gallery tomb type widely known in the north-western region of Brittany, has similar design features to Irish wedge tombs, and has similar connections with the Beaker culture, has long invited speculation as to the possible connection of the two monument traditions. This thesis is a detailed examination of the potential role of Atlantic France in the spread of metallurgy and associated cultural developments to Ireland. Three closely related topics are considered: • The initiation and development of copper and gold metallurgy, and the later introduction of tin bronze • The cultural context of this new technology, and specifically the underlying explanations for the spread of Beaker cultural influences with the first use of metal in Ireland • The development of wedge tombs in Ireland with regard to French allées couvertes, and the potential influence of the latter in terms of design and use. This thesis is essentially a review of relevant published and archive sources. It combines evidence from old excavations, notably for Breton material, which is often devoid of contextual information, but also some recent investigations with scientific analyses. The aim is to develop a wider understanding of exchanges and contacts between the two regions, but also other parts of Atlantic Europe during the Chalcolithic and earliest Bronze Age. This includes a consideration of south-west England, and its role in a triangular system of exchanges from the beginning of the Bronze Age, when its rich resources of tin and gold may have become significant for the trade in metals between Ireland and Armorica. Central to this study is the exploration of the role of Armorica as the critical springboard for the introduction of metallurgy to Ireland, within a wider Beaker network of Atlantic exchanges.
- ItemThe Irish brewing industry, c. 1780-1930: an archaeology(University College Cork, 2020-04) Harris, Caen; Rynne, Colin; Irish Research CouncilFrom the late-18th to the early 20th centuries, the Irish brewing industry underwent an extended process of transformation. This extended period saw the early industrialisation of several Irish breweries in the late-18th and early 19th centuries. This was followed by the continued concentration of the industry towards ever greater units of production in the 19th century and the rise of Guinness, in particular from the 1830s on, a brewery that had expanded to become both the most-substantial industrial concern in Ireland and the world’s most-productive brewery before the close of the 19th century. The process of transformation that the industry witnessed during the extended period under consideration laid the foundations for the makeup of the Irish brewing industry today, where the bulk of production is confined to one truly international-scale brewery. While previous histories have aimed to further our knowledge on the various factors that led to this transformation, they have been somewhat limited in their scope. This is owing to the relatively under-studied nature of many of the breweries that produced in Ireland during the period. This thesis, which is grounded in the discipline of industrial archaeology, is intended to fill many of the considerable gaps in our knowledge of the industry’s development during an extended timeframe that was key in Ireland’s wider economic, industrial, social and political development.
- ItemIronworking in late medieval Ireland, c. AD. 1200 to 1600(University College Cork, 2014) Rondelez, Paul; Rynne, ColinThe landscape of late medieval Ireland, like most places in Europe, was characterized by intensified agricultural exploitation, the growth and founding of towns and cities and the construction of large stone edifices, such as castles and monasteries. None of these could have taken place without iron. Axes were needed for clearing woodland, ploughs for turning the soil, saws for wooden buildings and hammers and chisels for the stone ones, all of which could not realistically have been made from any other material. The many battles, waged with ever increasingly sophisticated weaponry, needed a steady supply of iron and steel. During the same period, the European iron industry itself underwent its most fundamental transformation since its inception; at the beginning of the period it was almost exclusively based on small furnaces producing solid blooms and by the turn of the seventeenth century it was largely based on liquid-iron production in blast-furnaces the size of a house. One of the great advantages of studying the archaeology of ironworking is that its main residue, slag, is often produced in copious amounts both during smelting and smithing, is virtually indestructible and has very little secondary use. This means that most sites where ironworking was carried out are readily recognizable as such by the occurrence of this slag. Moreover, visual examination can distinguish between various types of slag, which are often characteristic for the activity from which they derive. The ubiquity of ironworking in the period under study further means that we have large amounts of residues available for study, allowing us to distinguish patterns both inside assemblages and between sites. Disadvantages of the nature of the remains related to ironworking include the poor preservation of the installations used, especially the furnaces, which were often built out of clay and located above ground. Added to this are the many parameters contributing to the formation of the above-mentioned slag, making its composition difficult to connect to a certain technology or activity. Ironworking technology in late medieval Ireland has thus far not been studied in detail. Much of the archaeological literature on the subject is still tainted by the erroneous attribution of the main type of slag, bun-shaped cakes, to smelting activities. The large-scale infrastructure works of the first decade of the twenty-first century have led to an exponential increase in the amount of sites available for study. At the same time, much of the material related to metalworking recovered during these boom-years was subjected to specialist analysis. This has led to a near-complete overhaul of our knowledge of early ironworking in Ireland. Although many of these new insights are quickly seeping into the general literature, no concise overviews on the current understanding of the early Irish ironworking technology have been published to date. The above then presented a unique opportunity to apply these new insights to the extensive body of archaeological data we now possess. The resulting archaeological information was supplemented with, and compared to, that contained in the historical sources relating to Ireland for the same period. This added insights into aspects of the industry often difficult to grasp solely through the archaeological sources, such as the people involved and the trade in iron. Additionally, overviews on several other topics, such as a new distribution map of Irish iron ores and a first analysis of the information on iron smelting and smithing in late medieval western Europe, were compiled to allow this new knowledge on late medieval Irish ironworking to be put into a wider context. Contrary to current views, it appears that it is not smelting technology which differentiates Irish ironworking from the rest of Europe in the late medieval period, but its smithing technology and organisation. The Irish iron-smelting furnaces are generally of the slag-tapping variety, like their other European counterparts. Smithing, on the other hand, is carried out at ground-level until at least the sixteenth century in Ireland, whereas waist-level hearths become the norm further afield from the fourteenth century onwards. Ceramic tuyeres continue to be used as bellows protectors, whereas these are unknown elsewhere on the continent. Moreover, the lack of market centres at different times in late medieval Ireland, led to the appearance of isolated rural forges, a type of site unencountered in other European countries during that period. When these market centres are present, they appear to be the settings where bloom smithing is carried out. In summary, the research below not only offered us the opportunity to give late medieval ironworking the place it deserves in the broader knowledge of Ireland's past, but it also provided both a base for future research within the discipline, as well as a research model applicable to different time periods, geographical areas and, perhaps, different industries..
- ItemLandscapes of kingship in early medieval Ireland, AD 400–1150(University College Cork, 2014) Gleeson, Patrick; Ó Carragáin, Tomás; Irish Research Council; University College CorkThis thesis explores the evolution of kingship in early medieval Ireland (AD 400–1150) through a kingdom based and multi-scalar approach to royal landscapes. Through exploring the role of place and landscape in the construction of early medieval Irish kingship, this study will assess the relationship between the social, economic and ideological roles of the king in Irish society. Kingship in Ireland was vested in places, such that royal landscapes were the pre-eminent symbol of regality and authority. As such, an interdisciplinary study of kingship grounded in archaeological methodologies has a unique potential to contribute to our knowledge of the practice of kingship. Consequently, this research considers the material apparatus of different scales of kingships and explores the role of landscape in the construction of kingship and the evolution of kingdoms. It takes two major case studies; (i) Cashel, Munster and the Éoganachta federation; and (ii) the Uí Néill, Tara and the Síl nÁedo Sláine kingdom of Brega. Through interdisciplinary methodologies it charts the genesis and development of political federations, focusing specifically on the role that royal landscapes’ played in their evolution. Similarly, this thesis engages critically with the nature of assembly places and practices in Ireland, and focuses specifically on issues pertaining to the nature of assembly and the archaeological manifestation of such practices. It includes a list of 115 landscapes identified as assembly places, and through the analysis of this material, this thesis examines the ways in which different types of royal sites articulated together to create royal landscapes implicated in the exercise of kingship, and the construction and maintenance of authority. Moreover, through the analysis of assembly places within the context of the development of kingdoms, and structures of jurisdiction and administration, it also investigates the evolution of supra-regional scales of identity and community associated with the emergence of major political federations in early medieval Ireland.
- ItemThe Mesolithic/Neolithic transition in the southern region of Ireland: a Bayesian approach to the integration of the palaeoenvironmental and archaeological records(University College Cork, 2018) Kearney, Kevin; Gearey, Benjamin; Irish Research Council; Royal Irish AcademyThis interdisciplinary study has assessed the evidence the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition (c.4500 – 3750 cal BC) in southern Ireland, examining the timing, extent and nature of woodland disturbance, agricultural activity and settlement during the period. This study represents the first explicit use of the Bayesian approach to address these issues and served to refine and integrate the two principal proxies available for investigating human activity during the Mesolithic/Neolithic transition. The integration of the palaeoenvironmental and archaeological records, within a Bayesian framework has allowed for the formulation of new hypotheses concerning patterns of vegetation change and the timing and intensity of human activity during the period. This thesis has demonstrated that the Early Neolithic archaeological record indicates that these practices began quite rapidly, with occupation sites associated with Early Neolithic material appearing from c.3750 cal BC. However, the early cattle bones from Ferriter’s Cove and Kilgreany Cave remain somewhat of an enigma in the context of the Early Neolithic in the region. This thesis redresses the geographical imbalance which had previously existed within palaeoenvironmental studies of the Late Mesolithic and Early Neolithic period in Ireland. The two new palynological records have provided robust, well-dated profiles which have been highly informative of the changing mid-Holocene landscape in southern Ireland. A distinct Landnam phase is exhibited at Lough Cullin which involved sustained woodland clearance and farming activity over several centuries, however, this occurred prior to the start of occupation at the Early Neolithic archaeological sites of the region. The statistical correlation between the date for the cattle bone from Kilgreany Cave and this Landnam phase may indicate the presence of domesticates in the region at the time when the most intense phase of woodland clearance was occurring which would have serious implications for our understanding on the timing and process of Neolithisation in Ireland. The mid-Holocene ‘Elm Decline’, often viewed as a chronological proxy for the start of the Neolithic, was demonstrated to be asynchronous across all sites investigated, and no degree of spatial cohesion was evidenced for this ‘event’. A correlation between anthropogenic activity and the onset of the ‘Elm Decline’ can be suggested at several sites, although this need not necessarily be ‘Neolithic’ activity. However, this was not in general agreement across all sites, indicating that the ‘Elm Decline’ across the island was a complex, multifactor, site-specific process. To conclude, the results of this thesis have produced a new body of critically assessed palaeoenvironmental data for the period. This study has contributed new perspectives on the timing and nature of human-environment interactions during this period of seismic cultural change. It has pioneered the use of the Bayesian approach to the integration and interpretation of complementary proxy records for human activity, highlighted the need for more considerations as to the chronological approaches taken by archaeological and palaeoenvironmental researchers.
- ItemMonasticism and its limits: rematerialising monastic space in early medieval Ireland(University College Cork, 2013) McCarthy, Bernadette; Ó Carragáin, Tomás; Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences; Heritage Council, IrelandThis thesis creates a multi-faceted archaeological context for early Irish monasticism, so as to ‘rematerialise’ a phenomenon that has been neglected by recent archaeological scholarship. Following revision of earlier models of the early Irish Church, archaeologists are now faced with redefining monasticism and distinguishing it from other diverse forms of Christian lifestyle. This research addresses this challenge, exploring the ways in which material limits can be set on the monastic phenomenon. The evidence for early Irish monasticism does not always conform to modern expectations of its character, and monastic space must be examined as culturally unique in its own right - though this thesis demonstrates that early Irish monasticism was by no means as unorthodox in its contemporary European setting as has previously been suggested. The research is informed by theories of the body, habitus and space, drawing on a wide body of archaeological, religious, sociological and anthropological thought. The data-set comprises evidences gathered through field-survey, reassessment of archaeological scholarship, historical research and cartographic research, enabling consideration of the ways in which early Irish monastics engaged with their environments. A sample of thirty-one early Irish ecclesiastical sites plus Iona forms the basis for discussion of the location and layout of monastic space, the ways in which monastics used buildings and space in their daily lives, the relationship of monasticism and material culture, the setting of mental and physical limits on monastic space and monastic bodies, and the variety of monastic lifestyles that pertained in early medieval Ireland. The study then examines the Christian landscapes of two case-studies in mid-Western Ireland in order to illustrate how monasticism functioned on the ground in these areas. As this research shows, the material complexities of early Irish monastic life are capable of archaeological definition in terms of both communal and personal lived experience.
- ItemPerceptions of ringforts in pre-modern Ireland(University College Cork, 2019-10-04) O'Riordan, Edward; Sheehan, JohnRingforts are among the most numerous and definitely the most visible archaeological monument on the Irish landscape. The majority of these monuments were built during the latter half of the first millennium AD and most had ceased to serve as habitation sites by the twelfth century. Nevertheless, communities across Ireland would have remained very aware of the presence of these monuments. Several centuries later, much land, particularly in the east of the country was appropriated by the Anglo-Normans and they too seemed to have viewed ringforts as important, albeit different, types of monuments. The goal of this thesis has been to investigate the question of how ringforts were perceived in pre-modern Ireland. To do so, this initial question was broken down into three others, namely how attitudes and beliefs towards ringforts developed, how these attitudes influenced behaviour towards these monuments and what effect, if any, these had on the survival of ringforts in particular areas. Seeking to demonstrate how attitudes and beliefs towards ringforts originated and later developed, involved an initial division of Irish society in two broad groups, one group being indigenous and the other group comprising newcomers. The former group was then further sub-divided into those that comprised the learned classes of society and the popular class. An examination of evidence for how ringforts were perceived within the two Irish groups was then undertaken and it was shown that a correct knowledge of ringforts, particularly concerning their origin but also of their function, was available within the Gaelic manuscript tradition. Evidence was also provided to demonstrate how this information may have been disseminated into the wider community. It has also been shown how the decline in fortune of the learned Gaelic class, and the disappearance of many manuscripts, meant that this knowledge faded from the grasp of the general population. This decline in understanding then paved the way for the emergence of another, mythological, association of ringforts. The initial development of this association was facilitated by the presence of underground chambers in many ringforts. These were initially constructed as refuges and storerooms, but over time the perception of these changed as their association with an underground living mythological race developed. Perceptions of this race itself changed over time, particularly as a result of a serious decline in the Gaelic language, and this attributed qualities to this group that it did not originally possess. The association in traditional belief between this group and ringforts supposedly served to protect these monuments from destruction. Aside from these Gaelic interpretations, an equally influential perception developed within the worldview of the newcomers to the country. This attributed a completely different origin and function to ringforts. Over time this perception developed the status of orthodoxy and proved extremely difficult to dislodge from its position. However, attempts were sometimes made by the remaining Gaelic antiquarians to present to a wider audience the knowledge concerning the indigenous origin of ringforts. However, it was only towards the end of the 18th century that this information began to achieve prominence, and from this date it grew in importance and eventually displaced the theory that ringforts were of foreign origin and had a predominately military function. Did these differing attitudes have an effect on ringfort survival? An examination of 19th and 20th century maps, from study areas in Co. Cork, showed that some level of destruction occurred between these two periods. In this context the word ‘destruction’ is used in a general sense, while remaining cognisant that an important archaeological element remained underground. Earlier estate maps are available for these study areas and a comparative study of all the available cartographic sources indicated a severe rate of decline in ringfort numbers from the beginning of the 18th century to the present day. Additional examination of photographic images from recent aerial surveys showed, in some cases, that the levelling of ringforts began even prior to the compilation of the first maps in 1717. This comparative study highlighted the apparent contradiction between the important position of ringforts for each of the local communities and the high level of ringfort destruction. It also allowed for the period of most risk to ringforts in these study areas to be identified. A study of the practical developments in each of these two baronies that was likely to have most affected ringforts in each of these study areas was then undertaken. The study suggested that the development of commercial tillage farming from the later part of the 18th century posed the greatest risk to ringforts in the east Cork barony. In the second study area, of mid-Cork, the proximity to an urban area seems to have negatively affected ringforts in the region. This study also highlighted that the levelling of ringforts continued throughout the period under examination and this facilitated the conclusion that the desire to maximise profits drove a doctrine of ‘Improvement’ and it was this economic factor that posed the greatest overall risk to ringforts in these two baronies. An attempt was then made to corroborate these results through seeking to apply them to areas throughout the country where other farming practices were noted for the same period. Initially, it was decided to focus on two baronies in Co. Kildare, as these had a long history of arable farming and, furthermore, were located near the main urban centre of the country, Dublin. In this situation, the application of the hypothesis developed in Co. Cork should show an increased rate of decline in both these areas, if the theory held true. Indeed, these were the results that were obtained, with one barony, Kilcullen, providing evidence, in maps and aerial images, for the total destruction of ringforts there. It was then decided to test this hypothesis in areas where different farming activity was noted. Castlereagh barony in Co. Roscommon, noted for cattle fattening, and Ibrickan barony in Co. Clare, an area of small, mixed farms, were chosen and the results conformed to what would be expected if the notion that arable farming posed the greatest risk to ringfort survival was accurate. Therefore, the answers to the questions posed at the beginning of this thesis may be summarised in this manner: ringforts occupied an important position in the world views of the communities that encountered them, fulfilling a variety of social and political roles. However, economic factors seem to have been accorded greater importance and this resulted in ringforts being removed from the Irish landscape in large numbers.
- ItemPioneering new approaches to woodland ecology and human activity in medieval Ireland (c.500-1550AD): an investigation using archaeological charcoal(University College Cork, 2018) Lyons, Susan; Gearey, Benjamin; Irish Research CouncilThe main aim of this thesis was to explore wood resource use, its impact on local woodland and the factors that influenced wood selection strategies during the medieval period in Ireland using the archaeological charcoal record. It examined the functional and cultural factors that influenced wood selection and wood use during a period of dynamic social, economic and political change and provided valuable insights into discreet local and regional patterns of how this raw material was utilised on a spatial and temporal scale. Within a multi-disciplinary framework, this research used and compared the historical, archaeological and palynological evidence to demonstrate the interpretative value of archaeological charcoal for understanding medieval woodland management and resource use. Over 20,000 charcoal fragments were sourced from 49 archaeological excavations carried out across two landscapes located in the south-midlands through counties Tipperary (N8/M8 Cullahill to Cashel Bypass Scheme and Toureen Peckaun) and Kilkenny/Carlow (N9/N10 Kilcullen to Waterford Road Scheme). These sites represented a cross section of early medieval (fifth-twelfth AD) and later medieval (post–twelfth century AD) rural settlement and the diverse range of features typically found associated with them. Fundamental to this research was the use of saturation curve analysis, which has redefined current sample sufficiency recommendations for medieval charcoal assemblages, thus contributing to charcoal sampling methodologies in Ireland going forward. To establish if there were any distinctive patterns within the charcoal record, a number of questions were asked of the data regarding spatial and temporal use of wood, from wood selection processes for specific activities to changes in wood resource use over time. By implementing a series of rigorous statistical tests, the results revealed that wood resource use at the beginning of the early medieval period (c.fifth century AD) was quite diverse, characterised by a rise in ash and fruitwood species, most likely reflecting the extensive period of land clearance that was underway at this time. Between the late seventh and late ninth/tenth century AD, oak use becomes sporadic shifting between being the dominant taxa to being relatively absent in the charcoal record. Wood use at a site fluctuated from being composed of an admixture of taxa to one dominated by a single species (oak). This is interpreted as being a period of when oak reserves were under pressure, during which time measures were put in place to encourage a system of resource sustainability through different forms of woodland and resource management practices. From the tenth century AD, the oak signal rises and remains high and constant into the later medieval period, at the same time other species, such as ash declines in use. The corn drying kiln charcoal data revealed that these quintessential medieval features had a close symbiotic relationship with other on-site activities and were shown to reflect the main changes in wood use variance over time. Wood brought to a site for primary usage (construction, fencing and manufacture) was used, reused or recycled as firewood to fuel other activities, such as corn drying kilns. In addition, a novel approach comparing the charcoal and plant macrofossil assemblages from kilns provided new insights into seasonal wood use at a site. As a result, kilns may be used as a proxy for understanding and interpreting medieval wood use intimately at local level. Wood resource use was therefore culturally driven, representing the human response to a physically changing landscape brought about by their very actions. Bayesian chronological modelling, particularly from the corn drying kiln dataset, provided estimates for when the rise and decline in mixed wood use and oak dominance, a product of anthropogenic factors, is likely to have occurred during the medieval period. This novel approach has in turn the potential to offer new dating parameters for the beginning and end of major socio-economic and political turning points as depicted in the archaeological and historical record. To conclude, the results of this thesis have produced a new body of critically and academically assessed environmental data for the medieval period. This study has contributed new perspectives on medieval woodland and wood use dynamics and the human response to a changing physical and socio-economic landscape. It has pioneered a statistical approach to interpreting medieval charcoal assemblages in an Irish context, highlighted how corn drying kilns can be used as a model for wood resource change at local level and by utilising Bayesian chronological modelling, has established new ways of dating major shifts in wood resource use in line with changes in the historical and archaeological record.
- ItemPrehistoric burnt mound archaeology in Ireland(University College Cork, 2014) Hawkes, Alan J.; O'Brien, WilliamIt is apparent from the widespread distribution of burnt mounds that Ireland was the most prolific user of pyrolithic technology in Bronze Age Europe. Even though burnt mounds are the most common prehistoric site type in Ireland, they have not received the same level of research as other prehistoric sites. This is primarily due to the paucity of artefact finds and the unspectacular nature of the archaeological remains, compounded by the absence of an appropriate research framework. Due to the widespread use of the technology and the various applications of hot water, narratives related to these sites have revolved around discussions of age and function. This has resulted in a generalised classification, where the term ‘fulacht fia’ covers several site types that have similar features but differing functions and age. The study presents a re-evaluation of fulachtaí fia in light of some 1000 sites excavated in Ireland. This is the most comprehensive study undertaken on the use of pyrolithic technology in prehistoric Ireland, dealing with different aspects of site function, chronology, social role and cultural context. A number of key areas have been identified in relation to our understanding of these sites. Previous investigations of burnt mounds have provided little information on the temporality of individual sites. It has been established that appropriate sampling strategies can provide important information about the formation of individual sites, their relationships to each other and to other monuments in the same cultural landscape. The evidence suggests that considerable caution should be exercised with regard to certain single radiometric dates from burnt stone deposits, based on the degree of certainty of the dated sample and its association with pyrolithic activity. Previously regarded as Bronze Age in date, there are now numerous examples of pyrolithic-type processes in earlier contexts, with the origins of the water-boiling phenomenon now considered to be Early Neolithic. A review of recent excavation evidence provides new insights into the use of pyrolithic technology for cooking. This is based on the discovery of faunal remains at several sites, combined with insights gained through experimental studies. The model proposed here is of open-air communal feasting and food sharing hosted by small family groups, as a medium for social bonding and the construction of community. It is also argued that if cooking was the primary activity taken place at these sites, this should not be viewed as a mundane functional activity, but rather one that actively contributed to the constitution of social relations. The formality of the technology is also supported by the presence of possible specialised structures, some of which were used for cooking/feasting while others were for ritualised sweat-bathing. The duration and frequency of activities associated with burnt mounds and the opportunities they provided for social interaction suggest that these sites contributed some familiar frames of reference to contemporary discourse.
- ItemSkin and bone: the face in the archaeological imagination(University College Cork, 2015) Beatty, Katherine E.; Ó Donnabháin, BarraThirteen unique archaeological countenances from Ireland were produced through the Manchester method of facial reconstruction. Their gaze prompts a space for a broad discourse regarding the face found within human and artefactual remains of Ireland. These faces are reminders of the human element which is at the core of the discipline of archaeology. These re-constructions create a voyeuristic relationship with the past. At once sating a curiosity about the past, facial reconstructions also provide a catharsis to our presently situated selves. As powerful visual documents, archaeological facial reconstructions illustrate re-presentations of the past as well as how the present can be connected to the past. Through engagment with Emmanuel Levinas’s (1906- 1995) main philosophical themes, the presence of the face is examined in a diachronic structure. The ‘starting point’ is the Neolithic period which has been associated with the notion of visuality with a reconstruction from the early Neolithic site of Annagh, Co. Limerick. The following layer of analysis appears with attention to intersubjectivity in the early medieval period with facial reconstructions from Dooey, Co. Donegal and Owenbristy, Co. Galway. Building upon the past concepts, the late medieval period is associated with the notion of alterity and paired with faces from Ballinderry, Co. Kildare and a sample of males from Gallen Priory, Co. Offaly. The final layer of examination culminates with the application of response and respons-ibility to the post-medieval Irish landscape with facial reconstructions from the prison on Spike Island, Co. Cork. These layers of investigation are similar to the stratigraphical composition of both the archaeological landscape and the skeletal/soft tissue landscape of the face. The separation of the neglected phenomenon of the face from the overwhelming embrace of the field of craniometrics is necessary. Through this detachment a new manner in which to discuss the face and its place within the (bio)archaeological record is possible. Encountering the faces seen in mortuary contexts, material culture, and archaeological facial reconstructions, inform and shape the archaeological imagination.
- ItemStructural carpentry in medieval Ireland: continuity and change(University College Cork, 2014) Geaney, Mary Josephine; Rynne, ColinThe study of medieval carpentry is probably one of the most neglected aspects of archaeological research in Ireland. The principal difficulty is the nature of the evidence, in that timber, unless the conditions are right, rarely leaves a trace above ground. The problem is further exacerbated by the fact that not a single medieval timber-framed building has survived in Ireland. Nevertheless, in recent years, in addition to the medieval roof of Dunsoghley, which up to quite recently was thought to be the only surviving roof structure in Ireland, a further eight medieval roof structures have been identified. Furthermore, an extensive corpus of early medieval mills, with evidence for advanced Roman carpentry techniques, has been excavated, while evidence for Viking houses, on what is probably the largest extant Viking settlement in Europe, have also been recovered. Although post and wattle structures dominate the archaeological record of the Viking period, nevertheless, it will be shown that the Roman tradition of carpentry, evidenced in the early medieval mills from the early seventh century, continued in use in the wider Gaelic community. And it is one of the pivotal points of this study, that with the takeover of Dublin by the Gaelic Irish in the late tenth century, this Roman carpentry tradition was gradually assimilated into the carpentry tradition of the Viking towns, which were now largely inhabited by a mixed population of Hiberno-Norse. Evidence for this Gaelic influence can be seen not only in the gradual replacement of the Viking post and wattle house by timber houses with load-bearing walls, but more importantly by the evidence for waterfront structures founded on baseplates with mortise and tenoned uprights on the pre-Norman waterfront in Cork. Furthermore, it will be shown, that the carpentry techniques used to build the Wood Quay revetments, shortly after the Anglo-Norman conquest in AD 1170, supports this contention.
- ItemThe archaeology of coastal shell middens in Ireland(University College Cork, 2023) Howle Outlaw, Carolyn E.; O'Brien, William; Royal Irish Academy; University College CorkCoastal shell middens are an important archaeological resource, with the potential to shed light on many different aspects of human interaction with coastal environments over time. These deposits of discarded shells, charcoal, and other cultural material can be found at various locations along the c.7500km or so of the Irish coastline. They have a long chronology from the Mesolithic through to early modern times, along with a considerable degree of variability in terms of site function, settlement context, and environmental setting. The study of these sites in Ireland has largely focused on the pre-farming (Mesolithic) period as part of a consideration of coastal foraging economies. Current evidence points to a long tradition of utilising coastal resources, which after c.4000 BC was integrated to varying degrees with agricultural activity through changing cultural practices evident elsewhere in the archaeological record. The principal aim of this study is to understand the changing role that coastal resources played through time in Ireland. Research methods include a review of published and archived sources on shell midden archaeology in Ireland and field survey. The data collected is statistically analysed with a view of understanding relevant changes in artefactual, ecofactual, and structural remains through time. Interpretations are based upon the archaeological data, relevant theories of interpretation, and ethnographical accounts of the use of molluscs and their deposition. The final analysis examines broad trends through time in relation to the use of coastal resources by humans in Ireland. Other questions addressed include the contribution to diet and nutrition made by coastal resources and their use as economic goods. The liminal character of the coastal zone, historical references to religious and folk beliefs concerning the coast, and inclusions of ritual deposits such as burials are examined as separate from but interwoven with the economic value of the shells.
- ItemTheme and variations: Christianity and regional landscapes in early medieval Ireland(University College Cork, 2014) Boazman, Gillian Madeleine; Ó Carragáin, Tomás; Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences; Heritage Council, IrelandThis thesis explores the impact of Christianity on the landscape in Ireland from the conversion period to the coming of the Anglo-Normans. The premise is that ecclesiastical and secular settlement formed a cohesive whole which characterised the societal organisation of early medieval Ireland. The matter of the thesis is to isolate some of the agents of cohesion to see was this homogenous or did it vary in different areas. One of these agents was the ownership of land and the thesis undertakes to identify ecclesiastical landholding and examine the manner of settlement on it. A corollary is to explore the contribution of the genealogical link between kin-group, founding saint and territory to the construction of local identities. This necessitated a narrow focus; thus small study areas were chosen, which approximated to early medieval kingdoms in North Louth, Rathdown, Co Dublin and Ross, Co Cork. A multidisciplinary approach was taken using both archaeological and documentary evidence. The thesis found ecclesiastical sites were at the same density through the study areas, but there were considerable regional variations in related secular settlement. Ecclesiastical estates were identified in the three study areas and common settlement patterns were found in two of them. Settlement in all areas indicated the foundation of minor churches by local groups. Ecclesiastical sites were found to be integral to kin-group identity and status, but the manner in which each group negotiated this, was very different. Finally the thesis examined material evidence for a change from diffused to concentrated power in the political organisation of Irish society, a process entwined with developments of the Viking Age. This centralisation of power and associated re-formation of identity was still often mediated through the ecclesiastical sphere but the thesis demonstrates diversity in the materialising of the mediation.