The archaeology of early medieval borderscapes: a case study of south-west Osraige

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McGarry, Colin M.
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University College Cork
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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.
High cross , Borderscapes , Border , Osraige , Ossory , GIS analysis , Ringforts , Linguan river region , Borders and border studies
McGarry, C. M. 2023. The archaeology of early medieval borderscapes: a case study of south-west Osraige. MPhil Thesis, University College Cork.
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