TII Heritage series
The Road to Kells: prehistoric archaeology of the M3 Navan to Kells and N52 Kells Bypass road project
In this twelfth title in the TII Heritage series, by Fintan Walsh, we discover another ‘Book of Kells’. This records the long prehistory of Kells and its hinterland, which was written on the landscape in ancient foundation trenches and boundary ditches, pits, post-holes, hearths and myriad other marks of human life that were discovered and recorded along the route of the M3 Navan to Kells and N52 Kells Bypass road project. The story begins with Mesolithic hunter-gatherers, who foraged in a forested, primeval landscape, and left traces of a campsite on a gravel ridge in Cakestown Glebe, by the River Blackwater. It continues, chapter by chapter, over a span of c. 5,000 years, recording the homes, burial grounds, work and worship of Neolithic, Bronze Age and Iron Age communities. It brings us at last to the threshold of history, in the Iron Age/early medieval transition period, when we meet agricultural workers on tillage land in Kilmainham, stoking the cereal-drying kilns that would secure their surplus grain harvest for the winter. Kells was not yet the seat of a famous monastery at that time but had already become a central place in the region, with a tribal capital at Commons of Lloyd, on the hill that overlooks the town today.
Between the Meadows: the archaeology of Edercloon on the N4 Dromod–Roosky Bypass
The bog in the townland of Edercloon, Co. Longford, first came to archaeological attention in 1964, when a local farmer discovered a prehistoric stone axe that retained a portion of its original wooden handle. Forty-two years later, during test excavations in advance of the construction of the N4 Dromod–Roosky Bypass, the preservative peat of Edercloon relinquished further ancient secrets in the form of a large network of wooden trackways and numerous artefacts. This proved to be one of the most remarkable archaeological complexes ever excavated in Ireland’s wetlands.
Evidence for human activity at Edercloon extends back almost 6,000 years, when the first narrow track of branches and twigs was laid down on the wet bog surface. This practice would continue for four millennia as further structures were built and wheel fragments, spears, and vessels were deposited among them. The story of Edercloon is not limited to the sites and objects submerged within the peat, however, it is also the account of an evolving landscape. Volcanic ash, ancient pollen, microscopic organisms, deep accumulations of peat, beetles’ wings, and the wood of the trackways themselves have been the subject of specialist palaeoenvironmental studies. Their findings greatly enhance and explain much about the archaeological tale recounted by author Caitríona Moore in Between the Meadows—the discovery of a potentially unique wetland ritual complex that was the focus of sustained activity over millennia.
'A wonderful book about spectacular archaeology. Handsomely produced, beautifully illustrated, expertly interpreted. A key publication for all future work.'
Professor Aidan O'Sullivan, UCD School of Archaeology
Around the Bay of Dundalk: archaeological investigations along the route of the M1 Dundalk Western Bypass
In every book in the TII Heritage series we rediscover the capacity of the Irish landscape to offer us encounters with past peoples, from remote periods, and lives that were very unlike our own. Around the Bay of Dundalk, by Shane Delaney, David Bayley and Jim McKeon, is a special treat. Here the landscape of the past has a grandeur and diversity seldom encountered in a single archaeological project. Among 34 excavated archaeological sites, highlights include a Neolithic ceremonial site at Balregan, a complex Bronze Age cemetery at Carn More, an early medieval cemetery-settlement at Balriggan, beautifully built souterrains at Newtownbalregan and Tateetra, and an Anglo-Norman earthwork castle on Fort Hill.
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In the Vale of Tralee: the archaeology of the N22 Tralee Bypass
(ISBN 978-1-911633-19-8) CURRENTLY OUT OF PRINT
From the foothills of the Stack’s Mountains to the River Lee Valley, the N22 Tralee Bypass traverses a rich cultural landscape. The River Lee has played a central role in the human history of this area from the moment the first Mesolithic hunter-gatherers turned their boats upstream to explore the valley. In this book, edited by Patricia Long, Paul O’Keeffe and Isabel Bennett, we encounter a succession of men, women and children who made the river valley their home over the following 6,000 years. Among them are the pioneering farmers who built one of the region’s first houses in Manor East, and the prehistoric community who constructed a ceremonial avenue of timber posts in Ballingowan. We encounter people who witnessed the arrival of the first metalworkers in the Lee Valley and find out how they parted with their dead. We cross the thresholds of modest homes that stood in Knockawaddra and Ballingowan at the dawn of Christianity in Ireland and conclude with the abandoned cottages of 19th-century Lismore.
From the wood, charcoal and plant remains recovered from the excavations, we trace how Tralee’s hinterland has changed over the millennia as fields were carved from the dense post-glacial woodlands, witness the efforts of more recent generations to improve the land and enclose it in the patchwork of fields and hedgerows we see today
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A Moycullen Miscellany: history, architecture and the archaeology of the N59 Moycullen Bypass
A Moycullen Miscellany, by Jerry O’Sullivan, Shane Delaney, Carlos Chique and Karen Molloy, weaves together many strands in the story of an attractive village with a colourful history and a pleasing mix of old and new architecture. The village lies between the fertile limestone basin of Lough Corrib and the upland granite country of Connemara. Archaeological excavations on the N59 Moycullen Bypass route have identified new evidence for prehistoric and early medieval settlement in this landscape, including the first Neolithic farmers. This evidence is corroborated by fossil pollen from a local peat bog, which records the advance and retreat of woodlands as successive human communities cleared the land for tillage and pasture throughout prehistory. In medieval times Anglo-Norman conquerers built a castle and church near the lake, but their manor of Gnó Beg (an ancient name for Moycullen) was afterwards ceded to the O’Flahertys, the Gaelic medieval lords of Connemara. By early modern times the choicest land was occupied by big landowners and their mansion houses, while their tenants lived in clustered cabins on the rugged hillslopes. From the 1830s the modern village began to converge around a crossroads created by Alexander Nimmo when he engineered a new road from Galway Bay to Lough Corrib. Though the village continues to grow, the crossroads is still at its heart.
Hidden Voices: the archaeology of the M8 Fermoy–Mitchelstown motorway
Every place has a story to tell but, with the passing of time, not all stories are preserved. The archaeological discoveries presented in this book afford a rare chance to hear from people whose voices would be lost were it not for the opportunities for discovery presented by the construction of the M8 Fermoy–Mitchelstown motorway in north County Cork. Hidden Voices, by Penny Johnston and Jacinta Kiely, documents a major programme of archaeological investigations at 24 sites on the route of the motorway, which traverses broad plains of rich pastureland and the western foothills of the Kilworth Mountains. A diverse range of archaeological sites was discovered, representing the day-to-day life, work and beliefs of the communities who occupied this landscape over the last 10,000 years.
Readers will learn of Mesolithic nomads fishing the River Funshion and of Neolithic farmsteads excavated at Gortore, Caherdrinny and Ballinglanna North. Bronze Age houses were found at Ballynamona, Gortnahown and Kilshanny, and a rare Iron Age example at Caherdrinny. Life in prehistory was precarious. There were burials at Ballynacarriga of Early Bronze Age women and children, including a young woman and her unborn child. But there was also the comfort of religion. Timber circles uncovered at Ballynacarriga are evidence of ceremonial practices in Later Neolithic times. The accounts of the excavations of an early medieval cliff-edge fort at Ballynacarriga, and cob-built houses and a blacksmith’s dwelling at Gortnahown move the story into the historical era. The iron-working evidence indicates highly specialised bell manufacture and brazing. The early 12th-century manuscript known as Críchad an Chaoilli provides a backdrop to these medieval sites, with its evidence for territorial boundary evolution and land ownership in the old kingdom of Fir Maige (Fermoy).
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Colonising a Royal Landscape: the history and archaeology of a medieval village at Mullamast, County Kildare
The investigation of a lost medieval village on the M9 motorway in County Kildare has provided the material for a unique story in the Irish archaeological record. In Colonising a Royal Landscape: the history and archaeology of a medieval village at Mullamast, County Kildare readers will learn about the hobby, a small agile horse bred for raiding and scouting in time of war and the specialist light cavalry called hobelars, who rode them. There is evidence from the settlement at Mullamast for other aspects of medieval Irish life also. Cattle, sheep and pigs were reared and, variously, milked, sheared or slaughtered for their meat and hides. From the evidence for harvesting and processing cereal crops it is clear that arable farming was important too. But the distinguishing feature of this settlement is the unusually high proportion of horse remains in the animal bone assemblage recovered by the archaeological excavation of the site and, especially smaller horses corresponding in stature to the hobby. It seems that the medieval village of Mullamast is now the first attested stud farm in the long history of horse breeding in County Kildare and was a place where the villagers specialised in horses bred for war.
The excavation of the site at Mullamast was directed by Angus Stephenson and the village’s story is now told in Colonising a Royal Landscape, written by Teresa Bolger. Technical reports relating to the excavation of the medieval settlement and other sites in Mullamast townland can be found on a CD-ROM accompanying the publication.
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Stories of Ireland's Past: knowledge gained from NRA roads archaeology
Ireland has been transformed within living memory, but change and transformation have always been integral to our island story. Stories of Ireland’s Past, edited by Michael Stanley, Rónán Swan and Professor Aidan O’Sullivan, celebrates two decades of the energy and endeavour of professional archaeologists in this country and their archaeological discoveries, made in advance of one of the most spectacular infrastructural transformations of any European country in recent times: the development of a modern roadway network. This scholarly synthesis of the archaeologically excavated evidence—the first of its kind—speaks to the legacy not only of our ancestors but also of the hundreds of field archaeologists who toiled across the Irish landscape to unearth, record and understand the traces of our shared past. The stories of Ireland’s past have had to be rewritten.
The eight papers in Stories of Ireland’s Past stem from a public seminar held in 2014 during which leading scholars evaluated the contribution of ‘roads archaeology’ to our understanding of Ireland’s prehistoric and historic past. Surveying some 10,000 years of new archaeological evidence for the human habitation of the island, the authors have delivered a truly significant publication: Stories of Ireland’s Past represents a state-of-the-art review of the newly discovered archaeology of one of the richest archaeological landscapes of Europe, if not the world.
'This is truly a milestone in Irish archaeology: a step-change in our understanding of Ireland’s past, written by foremost scholars and attesting to the massive contribution made by roads archaeology. It should be on the shelf of anyone interested in Ireland’s rich and fascinating past.'
Dr Alison Sheridan, Principal Curator, Early Prehistory, National Museums Scotland
Meitheal: the archaeology of lives, labours and beliefs at Raystown, Co. Meath
Meitheal, by Matthew Seaver, relates the story of Raystown in County Meath; a site that was lost for 1,000 years, until it was rediscovered by geophysical survey as part of archaeological investigations along the M2 Finglas–Ashbourne road project. Excavations carried out over a year revealed that Raystown began as a cemetery in the fifth century AD and evolved over the next 200 years into a large farming settlement surrounding the cemetery. In the eighth century the site developed further into a milling centre and continued in use for another 400 years. Most of the known early medieval mill sites in Ireland featured a single mill or sometimes two. At Raystown there were eight mills. This is unprecedented in the Irish archaeological record.
The book also describes the large number of artefacts recovered, which included dress accessories, domestic equipment and the tools and by-products of craft working. Some finds testify to personal moments: a ringed pin from a cloak accidentally dropped into the swirling waters under a mill, or a glass bead carefully placed around the neck of a child being laid to rest. Other finds included imported luxury goods, indicating that Raystown was connected to a trade network with Anglo-Saxon England and the European mainland in the fifth to mid sixth centuries AD.
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Above and Below: the archaeology of roads and light rail
Supernatural power dressing in the Early Bronze Age. Ireland’s little-known connections to the Roman world. The underground remnants of Georgian Dublin. All this and more features in the 13 papers in Above and Below, edited by Michael Stanley, which represents the ‘proceedings’ of a nationwide programme of Heritage Week events organised by Transport Infrastructure Ireland in August 2015. The success of this diverse series of public lectures, field trips and living history displays is celebrated with the publication of Above and Below, which presents a selection of the lectures.
Investigations on national road and light rail projects have revealed much about Ireland’s archaeological legacy at a variety of scales. Above and Below invites readers to explore the subterranean confines of an early medieval souterrain in north Kerry, amble through the magnificent Conamara landscape in search of west Galway’s industrial past, or take a virtual bird’s-eye view of the archaeological landscapes of north Roscommon.
'This book is well worth a read and is remarkable for its interesting content and excellent reproduction quality.'
Tom Condit, editor of Archaeology Ireland magazine.
The Science of a Lost Medieval Gaelic Graveyard: the Ballyhanna Research Project
The Science of a Lost Medieval Gaelic Graveyard, edited by Catriona J McKenzie, Eileen M Murphy and Colm J Donnelly, tells the story of the discovery in 2003 of a graveyard and church at Ballyhanna, in Ballyshannon, Co. Donegal, as part of the N15 Bundoran–Ballyshannon Bypass archaeological works. This led to the excavation of one of the largest collections of medieval burials ever undertaken on this island, representing 1,000 years of burial through the entire Irish medieval period. The discovery led to the establishment of a cross-border research collaboration—the Ballyhanna Research Project—between Queen’s University Belfast and the Institute of Technology, Sligo, which has brought to life this lost Gaelic graveyard. The Science of a Lost Medieval Gaelic Graveyard is about a community; about their lifestyles, health and diet. It tells us of their deaths and of their burial traditions, and through examining all of these aspects, it reveals the ebb and flow of their lives. The book is accompanied by a CD-ROM which includes supplementary information from the research project and the original excavation and survey reports for all of the archaeological sites encountered on this road scheme.
'I highly recommend this book . . . as an excellent example of a socially and historically grounded study of the lives, and deaths, of the people of a past community. Its accessible nature means that this book will also be of interest to a broad general audience.'
Siân E Halcrow, Department of Anatomy, University of Otago, New Zealand.
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Illustrating the Past
Illustrating the Past by Sheelagh Hughes is a lavishly illustrated, hardback book with more than 50 high-quality archaeological reconstructions. Since 2001, over 2,000 archaeological excavations have been undertaken on national road schemes in Ireland. This work has radically transformed our understanding of the past, with an abundance of information about the individual archaeological sites available from excavation reports and numerous archaeological books and magazine articles published by the NRA between 2003 and 2015. Throughout these many publications, archaeological reconstructions have frequently been used to bring the past to life, providing an opportunity for artists and archaeologists to explore the past and to test their hypotheses. Illustrating the Past brings together a selection of these reconstructions, covering every period from the Mesolithic, when Ireland was first settled, to the early modern period and encompassing almost every county in Ireland. These reconstructions capture all aspects of past life from personal moments to broad sweeping landscapes, with the work of more than 15 artists being showcased.
'[an] excellent and thought-provoking volume'
Robert Witcher, Department of Archaeology, Durham University