Archaeology - Masters by Reseach Theses

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    The archaeology of early medieval borderscapes: a case study of south-west Osraige
    (University College Cork, 2023) McGarry, Colin M.; Ó Carragáin, Tomás
    This thesis explores the role of borderlands and territorial divisions in early medieval Ireland (AD 400 - 1100), through a landscape-based case study of the southwest border of the regional kingdom of Osraige (mainly in modern-day Co. Kilkenny) with the larger overkingdom of Mumu (Munster). The study area incorporates portions of the Mumu kingdoms of Caisel and Déisi Mumu. It was chosen because previous work had identified unparalleled evidence for boundary monuments in this landscape, most notably ecclesiastical sites, some of which were later augmented by high crosses which have been interpreted as having a role in expressing the sovereignty of the kingdom of Osraige. The study considers changes in how this borderscape was used and perceived over the course of the early medieval period. Through the use of GIS analysis, the study considers the relationships between different forms of monuments and how they interacted with the borderscape. These monuments include hillforts, ferta burials, ogham stones, churches, ringforts, and high crosses. The study found little evidence for large-scale defensive infrastructure and concluded that this borderscape was not heavily militarized. Instead, military concerns were probably focused on the inner core of this kingdom and the same seems to have been true of others. In the study area, solitary ogham stones and ferta-type burial grounds tend to be placed on small-scale intra-kingdom boundaries, though elsewhere outside the study area denser clusters of these monument types occur on larger scale inter-kingdom boundaries. The erection of ninth-century high crosses at a selection of border-churches that were probably established around the seventh century, illustrates how such monuments could play a vital role in reinvigorating the role of such sites in the light of changing political circumstances. The landscape approach to these high crosses adopted in this study provides new insights into the distinct roles each of them may have played in the articulation of royal power.
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    An Egyptian mummy and coffin at University College Cork
    (University College Cork, 1988) Davis, Helen; Twohig, Elizabeth Shee; Taylor, John H.
    This thesis is an attempt to establish the relationship between an Egyptian mummy, cartonnage and coffin. To this end, the mummy was x-rayed by conventional means and C.T scanning to discover possible a date and to discover whether there was anything unusual about it from the point of view of pathology, bandaging, or mummification process. The bandages were analysed microscopically and by chemical analyses. The cartonnage was examined to extablish a possible method for its manufacture, and to discover whether all four pieces belonged together. The inscriptions and subjects depicted upon it were drawn and photographed and where possible, interpreted. The provenance of the coffin was established, its inscriptions and art work recorded by drawing and photography and its present location communicated to the Topographical Bibliography of Egyptian Inscriptions the Griffith Institute at Oxford.
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    A single panel case study in the greater Letter West rock art concentration
    (University College Cork, 2021-01-08) Lambe, Aoibheann; O'Brien, William
    An outcrop in boggy upland pasture inscribed with megalithic-era petroglyphs has been the subject of a close and sustained study at a scale unprecedented in Irish and British rock art research. Taking a ‘micro to macro’ approach, the petroglyphs (known in Ireland simply as 'rock art') on this single panel are recorded down to the level of the individual pickmark while the panel in its entirety is considered, at ever expanding scales, in the context of the greater Irish rock art distribution. At the macro-level, the quantity of rock art panels island-wide was calculated using data drawn from a diverse range of sources which include the sites and monuments records for the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, antiquarian journals, dissertations and the grey literature. At c.1000 (and rising), the total is appreciably higher than recorded in the official records for the respective jurisdictions. Surveys were also conducted, in part to challenge assumptions about the preferred landscapes for rock art, gaps in the distribution also targeted. Reports submitted to the National Monuments Service on foot of these surveys have increased the known number of rock art panels islandwide by over 10%, many of the newly identified panels located in low elevation areas suitable for settlement. The overview of Irish rock art focuses on techniques of carving, landscape settings and considers the evidence for distinctive regional styles while also identifying many shared characteristics of rock art throughout Ireland. The map of Ireland’s rock art created in ArcGIS more accurately reflects the original island-wide distribution than any such map previously. Not alone does the map include a greater number of rock art panels than ever before plotted but maps also those panels whose original location is known only to the townland, the latter often in regions where rock art is not otherwise recorded. With some 60,000 townlands in Ireland, the inclusion of such panels on an island-wide rock art map more accurately reflects the original islandwide distribution than would their absence. At the micro-level, the internal chronology of the case study panel is analysed, distinct phases of carving evidenced by superimpositions, motif modification, motif erasure and surface preparation. Previously unrecorded performative characteristics of rock art include ‘motif pairing’, ‘motif extensions’, ‘intermittent lines’, over-picking to modify a cup-and-ring variation into a double-coiled spiral among the many examples of superimposition. The rock art was recorded not alone on the upper surface of the panel, numerous grooves also continue down the near-vertical faces of the panel in a form of ‘all-over-decoration’. The panel, while exceptional, is not necessarily unique in respect of its complexity and internal chronology, similar results likely to have been achieved had a different but similarly complex panel been selected for a study of this nature. An extensive catalogue to the case study panel includes images and descriptive data for over 500 distinct features recorded on this single panel alone, the interactive map of the panel enabling the user to toggle back and forth between the map and the relevant catalogue entry. A comprehensive rock art terminology was devised, not alone because many of the features and performative qualities referred to above had not previously been described, but also to address shortcomings and inconsistencies in the overall rock art terminology. The methodologies used to record the case study panel include laser scanning, photogrammetry, photography, drawing and field observation, the most valuable tool perhaps the mindset taken, each mark treated as one made with intention - concepts of random, abandoned or amorphous anathema to this approach.
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    The Vikings in Ulaid
    (University College Cork, 2020-12-02) Bracken, Patrick James; Sheehan, John
    The majority of archaeological research undertaken on the Viking Age in Ireland concerns Dublin and the south-east. We have, therefore, constructed an image of Scandinavian settlement in Ireland that centres on Dublin and locations further south such as Waterford. The Viking Age in the north of Ireland has not been the specific subject of previous archaeological research despite the amount of Scandinavian burial sites and silver finds on record form the region. An assessment of the Viking Age archaeology of the kingdom of Ulaid, which encompassed the territory of the modern counties of Antrim and Down, inevitably, challenges the notion that Scandinavian settlement in Ireland during the Viking Age was exclusively focused in the southern half of the island. The purpose of this thesis is to outline and analyse the evidence for the Scandinavians in the territory of Ulaid during the Viking Age (c.800-c.1100 AD). The chapters of the thesis are divided in order to convey the various forms this evidence takes. A historical background chapter will outline the documentary evidence for Viking activities in Ulaid. A chapter on Viking bases and longphuirt is intended to convey the archaeological evidence for the modus operandi of the Vikings in Ulaid. A chapter dedicated to silver finds will assess each Scandinavian silver hoard and isolated find of precious metal on record from Antrim and Down and, thereby, demonstrate the commercial impact of the Scandinavians on Ulaid. A chapter dedicated to discoveries of Norse burials in Antrim and Down will assess the evidence for Scandinavian settlement in the coastal areas of Ulaid. The data and analysis presented in these chapters aims to provide an overall picture of the consequences of the Viking Age on the north-east of Ireland. Particular focuses will include the corresponding late ninth/early tenth century date applicable to the vast majority of the finds and the evidence for the connections established between the Norse and the Kindom of Dál Fiatach. Study undertaken in the Ulster Museum, Belfast and the National Museum of Ireland, Dublin as well as visits to sites discussed in the thesis has significantly aided research undertaken for this project.
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    All that remains: a study of social identity in Iron Age Ireland
    (University College Cork, 2021-01-01) O'Shaughnessy, Gerard; Becker, Katharina; Giles, Melanie
    This project investigates the complex processes of cultural change visible in the burial record of the Irish Late Iron Age. To understand the mechanism of change this project will focus on the identity of those buried, examining the representation of gender and social identities within the three contemporary burial rites. The end of the Iron Age and the transition to the Early Medieval period is tied up with questions about religious, ethnic, and social identity. These manifest themselves particularly in the burial record which sees in the first four centuries AD the change between, and the contemporary existence of cremation, extended, and crouched inhumation burials. After about 2000 years of cremation burial, the introduction of inhumation burial in the early centuries AD signifies dramatic societal changes, which are still ill understood. Previous discussion has focused on the significance of the occurrence of crouched and inhumation burials in terms of what they tell us about external influences from the Roman or Christianized world. The question of how immigrants are recognizable in these burials has been widely discussed without any consensus having been reached. This thesis concentrates on the individuals buried, and what their burials can tell us about the people themselves. Over the last fifteen years, a lot of new burial evidence has come to light in the rescue excavations of the Celtic Tiger years. In my BA dissertation, I examined the context and contents of the earliest extended inhumation burials in pre-Christian Ireland and was struck by the evidence for the significance of women in these burials. My MPhil Project follows up on this evidence and investigates social and gender differentiation within the burial record of the Late Iron Age. This will shed light on the broader question of the context and mechanisms of adoption of the new burial rites and associated cultural practices. A contextual study was conducted of the new and absolute dated burial sites that considers burial mode, including grave goods, and their association in the landscape, including pre-existing monuments and burial to garner insight into the context of the adaptation of the new burial rites. This project is a contextual study of absolute-dated excavated burial sites; sites that had been previously examined and new sites that had not been subjected to this level of investigation. This approach considers the information on the buried individual, the mode of their burial, including grave goods, osteological and isotopic data, the situation of the burial in relation to other known archaeological sites and monuments in the immediate and wider landscape as well as chronological and spatial patterning of these characteristics. The project consisted of a desk-based analysis of published and unpublished primary data including excavation reports. Data was entered into a database and interrogated. A literature review was conducted to inform the analysis and situate the interpretation of the data within the current state of knowledge. Published isotope data was recorded, and the results evaluated within the context of current understanding of this dataset. The data examined was partially provided by the supervisor Dr Katharina Becker in form of a data generated in her ongoing work and added to by information publicly available from the Instar project ‘Mapping death’. A survey of as well as other sources of information on recent excavations will be conducted and excavation reports sourced where possible. There are no ethical implications arising out of this project.