Just casually having lunch in a castle

Monday, July 23rd

Today we had glorious lectures from Rory, the first about the Bronze Age and the Iron Age in Ireland and the second on GIS. The Bronze Age period (2500BC-600BC) can further be split into Early Bronze Age, Middle Bronze Age and Later Bronze Age. EBA, in turn, holds the Beaker Period, the transition stage between the Copper Age and the Bronze Age. “Beaker” comes from the type of pottery associated with the period, found commonly in megalithic tomb burials as grave goods. During the MBA, round houses become universal, many with ditch enclosures. Crannogs, artificial islands made of stone or dirt and standing stone circles also come into use. There is a move toward hill forts and promontory forts during the LBA, with walls or palisades.

In contrast to the Bronze Age, there is little surviving archaeology from the Iron Age. A good example that we do have would be the great Hill of Tara located near the River Boyne in Co. Meath. Tara was used as an inauguration site for kings and had been used for centuries.

GIS, Geographical Information Systems, is a fancy way of saying electronic map. A GIS program allows you to make a map in any way you would like. You can choose to highlight topography, bedrock, routes, rivers, etc., or exclude any one of them. Data is added in layers, much like a photoshop program. This is useful for archaeologists, as a map can be made for a specific set of artifacts.

 

Tuesday, July 24th

The Atlantic Drive made up our field trip today. The drive started with a trip to a cillini, a cemetery for stillborn and unbaptized children. These emotionally charged graveyards hold a lot of local importance. Many are also the resting place of children that have been baptized, but could not receive burials in a consecrated area due to the poor wealth of the family. We ate our lunch in a Kildavnet Tower, a tower house castle, walked out to a promontory fort and stopped by another medieval church. Interestingly, the Kildavnet Tower was a “a 16th century Irish tower house that was formerly used by Granuaile, the legendary pirate queen.”

Besides the field trip, Rory also gave us a lecture on Early Medieval and Viking Ireland. During the Early Medieval Period, ringforts, crannogs, and skelligs were inhabited. Ringforts were often accompanied by souterrains, or underground tunnels used as defense mechanisms. Artifacts from this period include Ogham stones, which hold the earliest written language in Ireland, cross slabs with Ogham inscriptions, high crosses, prestigious metalwork and the eventual rise of written text. Illuminated manuscripts have their origin in this period.

When the Vikings began their invasion of Ireland, they brought their cultural influence. Long houses were built in Ireland, and craft styles such as the X and K swords came into use, as examples. Silver became the most important currency, and silver arm bands could be cut up on the spot for payment of something.

Our weekly guest lecture was given by Paul Gosling on the subject of nausts. A naust can easily be described as the “boat bed” or furrow created on the bank of a river or shore when a boat is moored. Nausts have not been truly been explored in Irish archaeology, but they are abundant, and their excavation can help to discover things about the past.

 

Wednesday, July 25th, Thursday, July 26th, and Friday, July 27th

On these three days we did make it to our site, and we did, of course, dig! Besides digging, however, we did do a few more interesting things. We began to remove loose rocks from the middle stretch—after doing that we began to trowel back the underlying dirt and while that happened I made two more finds: a piece of white pottery and a small shard. On Thursday, again after removing rocks and troweling, I found a corroded nail.

Friday held little digging in favor of a more technical process: surveying. Using a total station and a reflector, we measured the placement of the large rocks uncovered by troweling and from the middle stretch of rocks. Although time consuming, it was a nice break from pulling up roots!