Settlement in early medieval Ireland
in the light of recent archaeological excavations
Research papers in Irish archaeology, no. 3
Edited by Christiaan Corlett and Michael Potterton
It is not widely known among the general public in Ireland, and perhaps among scholars beyond, that this island contains probably the richest, best-preserved early medieval settlement archaeology anywhere in Europe. In no other country is it possible, as it is here, to point to a national map depicting upwards of forty to fifty thousand early medieval settlement sites (ringforts or raths) and say: ‘These are only the early medieval settlements that we know about from maps and other sources; a lot more have been discovered through recent archaeological excavations’. Indeed, the professionalism and skills of our archaeologists mean that our uniquely well-preserved early medieval settlement evidence has been augmented by superb archaeological excavations.
Certainly, it is the case that many of these excavations have yet to be published, but this is fast—with this book, for example—becoming less of a problem.
In this book we are thus presented with an extraordinary collection of papers describing some of the key early medieval settlement excavations of recent years.
In all of these papers there is a sense of people inhabiting a place, enclosing their dwelling spaces in various ways between the sixth and twelfth centuries AD, and how this changed across time. All of this must have been contingent on the waxing and waning fortunes of households and extended kin-groups, as populations grew or fell and as people worked the land, cultivated crops and managed livestock through different times, of plenty and famine. And now we can start telling the stories of these long-dead generations, who lived at a time of great change and transformed societies, of population growth and economic boom (and bust, through occasional plagues and famines), who sought to create homes for themselves in the land of Ireland and who shaped our landscape so profoundly.