Postcard from the past, at the turn of the year…

"Rhefert Church, Glendalough, Co Wicklow"

“Rhefert Church, Glendalough, Co Wicklow”

Some months ago now, I bought an old postcard on eBay (it was very cheap – £3.99) of Reefert church (misspelled “Rhefert”) , at the Upper Lake at Glendalough, Co. Wicklow. Although it is a place that I am fond of, having visited it hundreds of times before, I was intrigued because the postcard clearly showed the church in relatively open country, and before its enclosure within oak and hazel woods.

Intriguingly, when I opened the envelope from the eBay seller, I discovered the postcard was posted in 14 December, 1926, to The Rev Charles Plummer, at Corpus Christi College, Oxford. This of course can only be the famous medievalist who is best known in our part of the world for editing the 2 volume Vitae Sanctorum Hiberniae, whose work made a range of medieval Irish hagiographies available to the reader. See here for a brief biography of Plummer.

The sender, then unknown to me, of the postcard wrote

“Dublin 14.Xii.26

The carols arrived all right, just after I had despatched a post card to you. I am very glad to have them & so are the other recipients. Best wishes for the season.

M. Joynt”

M. Joynt's message to Charles Plummer, before Christmas 1926

M. Joynt’s message to Charles Plummer, before Christmas 1926

At that stage, I couldn’t figure out the author’s name, but when I posted it on the Early Medieval and Viking Age (EMVARG) Facebook page here, a better-informed colleague Dr Emer Purcell suggested that it was Maud Joynt, a contributor to the Dictionary of the Irish Language published by the Royal Irish Academy and the key work on the origins and character of Old and Middle Irish, (and also a signatory, I see here, of a letter in October 1922 protesting about changes to article 3 of the Draft Constitution “Relating to the Rights of Women as Citizens; Extracts from Clauses in Constitutions of European States Relating to Women’s Rights”). Strangely, but perhaps unsurprisingly (being a woman), there’s not a whole lot about her on the internet.

Maud Anna Evans Joynt was a significant early Irish scholar, who as well as contributing to the DIL, edited various Irish texts including Feis Tighe Chonáin and  Tromdámh Guaire as well as Echtra Mac Echdach Mugredóin. Dr Sharon Douglas-Greene suggested that the correspondence related to Plummer sending Joynt some “new music for church congregation/choir”, which seems likely.

There’s not much more to it than that, except I find it fascinating as an artefact from the past (a material email), and as well as giving me a glimpse of Reefert as it was c.1900, I’m also imagining Dublin just before Christmas, a few years after the war of independence, and two medieval scholars corresponding over something that they had chatted about, presumably during a visit to Dublin by Charles Plummer. I’m also intrigued as to how such an ephemeral item survived Plummer’s death, only a year later in 1927?

The postcard itself was published by William Lawrence, Dublin, and is clearly one of the Lawrence Collection, which the National Library of Ireland describes here which this website tells me was used to produce postcards from the 1890s onwards, and that “after 1902 when one side could be devoted to a picture, and you could send a message, his postcard business took off”. At this point, I should probably make some cliched comment about the ephemerality of emails and how mine will not survive a century like Maud Joynt’s postcard, written before Christmas 1926…

But finally, Happy Christmas and a Peaceful and Prosperous New Year to everyone…

Aidan O’Sullivan

Magic and superstition in early medieval Ireland – some thoughts

Aidan O’Sullivan

People’s lives in early medieval houses would have been bound around by customary practice, by social norms and conventions, by religious beliefs (such as the thin layer of belief provided by Christianity), but also by superstitions and even a belief in the magical properties of objects. This is hardly remarkable. Some early medieval Christian religious beliefs and practices essentially saw objects as having personality and power and an ability to shape people’s lives – one need only think of saint’s relics and their power.

Rather more tricky to identify are the beliefs and practices that people had in their daily lives, that seem to be distinct from early church doctrine. In the past, I have explored the ways in which the abandonment of houses seems to be marked by the deposition of domestic objects, such as rotary quernstones, wooden troughs and plough implements, in pits or wall slots (O’Sullivan and Kenny 2008, 9). These types of objects, used in the production and preparation of food, may have been practically and metaphorically associated with the household itself. DSCF3833

At Deer Park Farms, an oak trough (with a wooden shoe last inside it) seems to have been deliberately left behind on the floor of the smaller house (Structure Zeta) of a figure-of-eight house. This wooden trough—which early Irish literary sources would imply was a woman’s property and used for kneading dough or presenting food—was apparently over 150 years older than the house and must have been one of its cherished antiques so its deposition could hardly be accidental (Lynn and McDowell 2011, 130). One could envisage that upon the death of a grandmother, the trough was finally abandoned within a house that had also come to the end of its life.

Quernstones were used for preparing bread and cereals (an important aspect of the early medieval diet). In early Irish sources, food preparation was a woman’s task, so it is possible that these objects were associated with a grandmother or mother. At Leacanabuaile, broken rotary querns were placed in the walls of the Phase I round-house that was then subsequently replaced by a Phase II rectangular house. At Dressogagh, two figure-of-eight round-houses were placed on top of two earlier figure-of-eight round-houses, and the walls pulled down and rebuilt and the broken portions of a rotary quernstone were placed within the wall slots of House 1, before its replacement by House II. At the early medieval unenclosed settlement at ‘The Spectacles’, Co. Limerick, a broken quernstone was deposited on top of the paving, directly in front of the door of a round-house (Ó Ríordáin 1949, 106). At Rinnaraw, Co. Donegal, broken quernstones were left on the floor beside the door, while one fragment was also placed in the doorway threshold (Comber 2006, Fig. 24). At Drumaroad, Co. Down, two broken quernstones were deposited just south of the house doorway, alongside the paving (Waterman 1956, 86). At Ballyvourney, Co. Cork, a broken quernstone fragment was deposited in a pit within the floor of a round-house used by a metalworker, while other broken quernstones and an iron spear-head were left at the base of a drain outside its doorway (O’Kelly 1952, 25, 31-2).

Pl. 7.5 Early medieval houses Structure Zeta and western side of Structure x, from south. From here we can see the collapsed wattle wall of Structure Zeta to the left, and the bedding area (C1291) at the bottom right, inside Structure X.

Early medieval houses at Deer Park Farms.

Broken and smashed quernstones are also known from Lisnagun Ring fort, Co. Cork; Lagore Crannog, Co. Meath; Carraig Aille I and II, Co. Limerick; and in recent excavations at Derrinsallagh 3, Co. Laois, among numerous settlement sites (O’Sullivan and Kenny 2008, 10). In anthropological terms, deliberate or structured deposits often mark key events in the life of a house—or the people within it (e.g. the abandonment of the house or the death of a key household figure). In early medieval Ireland, we might imagine that when a house itself was being abandoned or rebuilt at the end of its life, it may have been a cultural practice to deliberately ‘kill’ the household’s quern and leave it behind in the ruins.

Neolithic stone axes, flint arrow-heads, scrapers and general flint debitage are also common finds from early medieval settlements and houses. In many cases, this could simply represent residual evidence, or the use of flint as strike-a-lights, and we should be wary about ascribing significance to one flint object, while ignoring the large number of flint debitage.


In other cases, distinctive objects are found, and often in discrete occupation horizons suggesting actual use in the early Middle Ages. A flint scraper and a chert arrowhead was recovered from a house floor on Sroove crannog, Co. Sligo (Fredengren 2002, 231, Fig. 60), end-scrapers and a leaf-shaped arrowhead were found in occupation layers from Lough Faughan crannog, Co. Down (Collins 1955, 69-70) and at

Leacanabuaile, Co. Kerry, a prehistoric stone axe was found inside a house (Ó Ríordáin and Foy 1941, 95).

At Deer Park Farms, as many as eighteen stone axes, a stone adze and a chisel were recovered from the early medieval settlement layers, mostly associated with house occupation deposits. One axe came from collapsed roofing material (McDowell 2011, 253-55), suggesting that it was suspended in some way from the roof timbers or perhaps was wedged into the thatch itself. It is likely that many of these objects were discovered accidentally during ploughing in the early medieval period and brought into houses as charms or ‘magical’ items to protect the house from fire or disaster.


It is most unlikely that stone axes and arrow-heads were seen as ‘antiquities’ or objects associated with the past (a category recognition that only comes with the development of 18th century antiquarianism), but as thunderbolts or fairy darts that were often felt to have had talismanic or protective powers – as was the case across modern Europe (Carelli 1997). Flint arrow-heads were also seen in modern Irish folklore as ‘witch-stones’ having magical properties that could protect cattle, milk and butter. Estyn Evans, (1957, 300–3), noted that in recent times cattle that were not thriving were reckoned to have been ‘elf-shot’: a cow-doctor called to a stable would surreptitiously carry a few flint arrow-heads to whip out of the animal’s body at the strategic moment so as to ‘cure’ them. Calves could also be cured of various ailments such as the ‘coup’ by boiling a flint arrowhead in milk and feeding it to them. Kelly (1997, 174–5) notes that later medieval Irish manuscripts refer to the bewitching of cattle (mille ba), which may have been caused by elf-shot (urchar millte), so it seems likely that prehistoric flint arrow-heads found in early medieval dwellings represent evidence for magic and superstition.

A few weeks, I was in the Pitt Rivers Museum in Oxford and went to visit an object that has been intriguing me for the last year, since first I saw it. It’s in the charms and amulets section, and it’s an Early Bronze Age flint tanged arrowhead, with a tag that says it was collected in Antrim, where it had been used to cure cattle at about 1890 or so by heating a bucket of milk with the arrowhead in it, and then feeding the milk to them…Jope, in 1952 writing about porcellanite axes in Ulster writes about how he had to persuade one household to take the axe away, as they were most anxious about the fate of their house with it gone….

Anyway, these are musings for the moment – I have much more to do to develop the subject, not least look at the archaeological data more closely, but I’ve been threatening to write a paper about “Magic in Early Medieval Ireland’…this will get me started.

Aidan O’Sullivan

UCD School of Archaeology

 Some bibliographical references

Carelli, P. (1997) ‘Thunder and lightning, magical miracles. On the popular myth of thunderbolts and the presence of Stone Age artefacts in medieval deposits’, in H. Andersson, P. Carelli and L. Ersgård (eds), Visions of the past: trends and traditions in Swedish medieval archaeology (Lund, 1997), 393–417.

Comber, M. 2006 Tom Fanning’s excavations at Rinnaraw cashel, Portnablagh, Co. Donegal. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 106C, 67-124.

Collins, A. E. P. 1955 Excavations in Lough Faughan (Falcon) Crannog, Co Down, 1951-2. Ulster Journal of Archaeology 18, 45-81.

Evans, E. 1957, Irish folkways (London).

Fredengren, C. 2002a Crannogs: a study of people’s interaction with lakes, with particular reference to Lough Gara in the north-west of Ireland. Bray. Wordwell.

Kelly, F. 1997 Early Irish farming: a study based mainly on the law-texts of the 7th and 8th centuries A.D. Dublin. Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies.

Lynn, C.J. and McDowell, J.A. 2011 Deer Park Farms: The excavation of a Raised Rath in the Glenarm Valley, Co. Antrim. The Stationery Office, Northern Ireland Environment Agency. Norwich and Belfast.

O’Kelly, M. J. 1952 St Gobnet’s House, Ballyvourney, Co. Cork, Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 57, 18-40.

Ó Ríordáin, S. P. 1949a Lough Gur excavations: Carrig Aille and the ‘Spectacles’. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 52C, 39-111.

Ó Ríordáin, S. P. and Foy, J. B. 1941 The excavation of Leacanabuile Stone Fort, near Cahirciveen, Co. Kerry. Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society 46, 85-99

O’Sullivan, A. 2008 Early medieval houses in Ireland: social identity and dwelling places. Peritia 20, 226-56.

O’Sullivan, A. and Kenny, N. 2008. A matter of life and death. Archaeology Ireland, 22(4), 8–11.

O’Sullivan, A. and Nicholl, T. 2010 Early medieval settlement enclosures in Ireland: dwellings, daily life and social identity. Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 111C, 59-90.

Waterman, D. M. 1956a The excavation of a house and Souterrain at White Fort, Drumaroad, Co. Down. Ulster Journal of Archaeology 19, 73-86.

The Faddan More Psalter – the materiality of texts in early medieval Ireland

Aidan O’Sullivan

It was one of the most astonishing Irish archaeological discoveries of modern times.

On a hot summer’s day in July 2006, a man working a mechanical excavator on a raised bog in Faddan More, Co. Tipperary uncovered – and saved until museum staff could reach it – a late-eighth century psalter, or book of psalms, that had been buried there centuries before. Perhaps amongst the most significant things about the Faddan More Psalter is not so much the text itself (which appears to be fairly conventional; would that it were a lost early Irish law tract or saint’s Life), but the materiality of the book itself.

Faddan More Psalter, shortly after its discovery (Image: National Museum of Ireland)

The National Museum of Ireland’s staff of conservators, under the direction of Anthony Read, working with John Gillis who was seconded from TCD Library for the project, through an extraordinary feat of conservation and analysis (see Read 2011, below), have revealed that it was originally made of sixty sheets of calf vellum (produced through careful livestock management) gathered into five gatherings (or quires). Scientific analyses have revealed that it was inscribed with black-dark inks made of oak galls and decorated of pigments like orpiment, lamp black, red and white lead.

Cover of the Faddan More Psalter (Image: National Museum of Ireland).

John Gillis (Photo Alan Betson, The Irish Times)

A folio from the Faddan More Psalter (Image: National Museum of Ireland)

It was carried in a larger leather book cover, stiffened with papyrus, that had been manufactured for some other book, and this object itself evokes the humid heat of the Nile Delta, where warble flies buzzed around the ears of Coptic cattle. Emphasising the extraordinary character of the book’s very survival is the fact that in many cases, it was the inky letters themselves on the pages that preserved the vellum, whereas the rest of the pages were destroyed. Finally, the book and its cover were thrust down into a bog pool, together with a pig-skin bag and covered with a piece of white-haired calf hide.

It will probably always be a mystery to us why this book was hidden in a midlands bog; was it someone fleeing danger; carrying, hiding and ultimately losing a religious book? Or was it someone making an offering to the Lord, as is suggested by the deposition of other ecclesiastical treasures in watery places; seeking some redemption or placation, seeking protection from the dreary, wet climate of the Irish midlands in the eighth or ninth centuries AD?

Anyway, the Faddan More Psalter is now on exhibition in the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street, in the refurbished ‘An tSeodlann/The Treasury’. Overall the exhibition attempts to portray the achievements of artists, metalworkers and ecclesiastics from the late Iron Age through the ‘Golden Age’ of early medieval Ireland. It’s very professionally done and hopefully will attract plenty of international visitors, who will be fascinated, we hope, with this aspect of Ireland’s cultural heritage.

I’ve visited it several times now, initially on the first day of public access and subsequently with students and on other occasions on my own. You travel to the Faddan More Psalter by firstly entering through an arch into ‘An tSeodlann/The Treasury’ (where it is good to see some old friends back on display; the Broighter Hoard looks particularly well and you can now view the boat clearly from all sides).

The Faddan More room though, is really a new and very exciting exhibition about the advent of literacy in early Ireland, with the Psalter placed in the context of early writing, with a bilingual (i.e. with ogham and Roman lettering) ogham-inscribed pillar from Killeen Cormac, Co. Kildare (possible the site known as Cell Fine Cormaic, where according to the Vita Tripartita, one of the earliest missionaries to Ireland, Palladius, left his writing tablet, books and relics of SS Peter and Paul), bookshrines (including the Lough Kinale bookshrine), replica manuscripts, and a review of early medieval writing technologies (such as the Springmount bog, Ballyhutherland, Co. Antrim wax tablets, on which are written the Vulgate texts of Psalms 30-32).

Some of the ‘pages’ of the Faddan More Psalter itself will be periodically exhibited in the middle of the room (in a clever touch, you can view the ‘pages’ from both sides). You can also see the leather book cover or satchel on its own. There is plenty of other material too; including a short video (based on the excellent TV programme, which can be purchased as a DVD – which I’ve already used in undergraduate lectures); as well as a poster style display explaining the context and circumstances of the find and its conservation.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the architectural scale of the exhibition panels somewhat overwhelms the impact of the much smaller Psalter pages and its cover. I sat for a moment on one of the benches (always a nice touch to have places to sit down in museums…) and watched some visitors for a few minutes. Several people walked around the exhibition paying little regard to the Faddan More Psalter itself in the centre of the room and several stood reading the posters with their backs to the book cover and exhibited vellum pages. It seemed, well, wrong, made the cover seem small, fragile..vulnerable. But of course, it is vulnerable, so I presume the large poster stand acts to protect the psalter pages further from light.

It is a fantastic exhibition though and an excellent addition to the National Museum of Ireland’s displays on early medieval Ireland. If you want to gain a sense of the power of the book, and the word, in the transformation of Ireland during the early Middle Ages, go and see it. There are also a range of publications to go with the exhibition. These are well-written, brilliantly illustrated and will undoubtedly travel the world themselves.

Read, A. 2011 The Faddan More Psalter: Discovery, Conservation and Investigation. National Museum of Ireland. Dublin

Deer Park Farms early medieval rath is published! Part I

The Deer Park Farms early medieval farmstead is published, it's a big one - even if this is an espresso cup for scale!

Deer Park Farms. The Excavation of a Raised Rath in the Glenarm Valley, Co. Antrim. By C.J. Lynn & J.A. McDowell and contributors (2011): 660 pages, 205 Figures, 35 Plates, 117 Tables; The Stationary Office: Northern Ireland Environment Agency

A thousand years ago, generations of an early medieval (or Early Christian) community living at a place known today as Deer Park Farms, near Glenarm in the Antrim Glens, built, occupied and ultimately abandoned an early Irish rath, ringfort or settlement enclosure. They inhabited this farmstead between the seventh and the tenth centuries AD, building up layers of occupation and leaving behind them physical traces from hundreds of years of peoples’ lives, daily work, economy and material culture.

Between 1984 and 1987, the Deer Park Farms raised rath was entirely excavated by Chris Lynn (then of the Historic Monuments Branch of the Dept. of the Environment) and his team, in advance of local farm improvements. Digging down through the raised rath, to its lowest, waterlogged levels, they uncovered startlingly well-preserved post-and-wattle houses, beds, occupation floors, crafts debris and artefacts and palaeoecological evidence for diet, economy and environment. It is without doubt, amongst the most important Irish archaeological excavations of modern times – and its scientific publication has been eagerly awaited by many.

Indeed, this publication on the Deer Park Farms excavations looks set to shape a generation of academic debate and popular ideas about early medieval Irish society – and we will be reading and utilising this book for years to come. In this first post, I’m just going to quickly sketch out the character and contents of the book, later I’ll return for a more detailed critique and review (I have been given an advance copy to review; this is just a first comment).

Firstly, this is a book lover’s gem – it is handsomely and lavishly produced by The Stationary Office (TSO), with an attractive dust-jacket and cover and it is stuffed full of excellent images; maps, plans and sections – abundantly using colour thoughout and the drawings are clear and well-done.

There is abundant colour throughout: This is Pl. 7.5 Early medieval houses Structure Zeta and western side of Structure x, from south. From here we can see the collapsed wattle wall of Structure Zeta to the left, and the bedding area (C1291) at the bottom right, inside Structure X.

Indeed, in keeping with recent publications on Strangford Lough and the Nendrum early medieval tidal mill, the Deer Park Farms monograph has a huge amount of colour and black-and-white plates (see above). It is also physically a thumper of a book – weighing it at 6 lbs, 10 oz, a respectable size for a new-born baby! In terms of its contents, of more later, we have it all here, from  detailed site descriptions, to analysis of all phases of occupation, to comprehensive artefact studies and incredibly detailed – and innovative – palaeoecological studies.

The book’s contents page lists (and I’ll give them to you here) will give you a sense of the book; Firstly, we have the introductory materials: Chapter 1: Introduction (Lynn and McDowell); Chapter 2: Regional and Archaeological Setting (K. Neill); Chapter 3: The province of Ulster in the early Middle Ages (Charles-Edwards); Chapter 4: Placenames (Muhr);

We then move on to the description of the site excavation: Chapter 5: Pre-rath features (McDowell & Lynn); Chapter 6: Rath Period Phases 2-5 (McDowell & Lynn); Chapter 7: Rath period, Phase 6 (McDowell & Lynn); Chapter 8: Raised rath period, phases 7-9 (McDowell & Lynn); Chapter 9: Raised Rath periods, phases 10-13 (McDowell & Lynn); Chapter 10: The souterrain period and later activity (McDowell & Lynn); Chapter 11: Deer Park Farms (Hurl) and Chapter 12: An analysis of the radiocarbon dates (Warner).

A quick photo (never good for line images) of the site plan of phase 6b features. But even this plan can be used to explore early medieval concepts of space and privacy. Look at the way the entrance ramp leads straight to the house doorway, architecture to guide movement and access.

We then move to chapters on crafts and technology; Chapter 13: Objects of flint, stone and polished stone (Moore & McDowell); Chapter 14: Objects of Bone, Copper Alloy, Lignite and Decorated pieces (Hurl et al); Chapter 15: Iron objects (Lynn & McDowell); Chapter 16: Metallography of iron (M. Hall); Chapter 17: The Pottery (Crothers et al); Chapter 18: Objects of Glass and Amber (Lynn & McDowell); Chapter 19: Metalworking residues (Bayley); Chapter 20: The textiles (Wincott Heckett); Chapter 21: The Leather objects (M.E. Neill); Chapter 22: The wooden artefacts (Earwood); Chapter 23: Structural Timbers (Earwood); Chapter 24: Wicker weaving techniques used at Deer Park Farms (Hurl);

Then, we have a series of chapters that explore key aspects of the site’s environment and economy: Chapter 25: The use of woodland in the houses (M. Neill); Chapter 26: The animal bones (McCormick and Murray); Chapter 27: The condition of Deer Park Farms hair and potential for stable isotope investigation (A.S. Wilson); Chapter 28: Environment, Activity and Living Conditions (Kenward, Hall, Allison & Carrott); Chapter 29: Pollen analysis (D.A. Weir); Chapter 30: Dendrochronology (Baillie & Brown).

Finally, Chris Lynn and Jacqueline McDowell return to the fray to offer us some summative and reflective chapters, placing the site in its historical, cultural and social contexts: Chapter 31: The evolution of the mound (Lynn & McDowell); Chapter 32: Literary and archaeological contexts  (Lynn & McDowell); Chapter 33: Reconstruction of an 8th-century house based on evidence from Deer Park Farms (Lynn); Chapter 34: Críth Gablach and the status of the rath occupants  (Lynn & McDowell) and Chapter 35: Retrospect  (Lynn & McDowell). We also have an extensive bibliography, an index of the contents and a fold-out of a cross-section of the entire raised rath and enclosing ditches, all in colour and annotated.

For many of us in Irish archaeology, the Deer Park Farms early medieval rath has long been a subject of fascination and interest. I remember (many years ago) returning home one evening from UCD, where I was a First Year Archaeology undergraduate student, and watching a brief TV programme, on UTV, about the excavations. For years afterwards, I read everything I could about the site or attended Chris Lynn’s lectures – not least because of its waterlogged wood. Latterly, as a Archaeology lecturer at University College Dublin, I have used the Deer Park Farms in countless lectures and academic papers (well, not countless) to illustrate how early medieval people might have understood and organised their dwellings. Indeed, I could see myself using this book next year to prepare 5-6 lectures or seminar/workshops about early medieval Ireland!

Finally, while we were working on our reports on early medieval settlement and dwellings for the INSTAR-funded Early Medieval Archaeology Project (EMAP), we were well aware that this was going to be a key publication for our understanding of early medieval settlement archaeology.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this is a key publication for our understanding not only of Northern Ireland’s history and cultural heritage, but also that of the entire island, these islands, and indeed of  lives and practices of people in early medieval Europe, c.AD 600-1000. It is also a testament to the significance of Irish archaeology in international terms and of the skills and patience and persistence of its authors – all credit to them.We will return to the Deer Park Farms early medieval raised rath excavations publication again…there is much to say.

View of the partly-excavated entrance way (C1259) into the rath, kept clean the authors tell us, as might be expected of the paved entrance or airdrochat described in early Irish sources. This book provides us with unique access (see what I did there?) into an early medieval settlement of the 7th to 10th centuries AD.

EMAP’s work and reports

Our Early Medieval Archaeology Project (EMAP) reports for 2010 have now gone online on our website as high-quality, printable pdfs. You can download these, print them out, keep them as digital files on your computer and use them in any way you want, through a citation of them as sources would be appreciated!

The project’s reports for 2010 include an EMAP Project Report providing a summary of the project’s achievements in 2008-2010; a two volume report on Early Medieval Dwellings and Settlements in Ireland, AD 400-1100, including a volume 1 with text and interpretation and a volume 2 with a gazetteer of site descriptions. We also have prepared A Bibliography of Early Medieval Archaeologyin Ireland, which can be regarded as the most complete bibliography ever compiled of the subject – hopefully its a resource that scholars will find useful.
Rob O’Hara’s MA thesis, which was supported by INSTAR Heritage Council funding to EMAP, is also now available here. It provides Rob’s thoughtful and stimulating study of a late Iron Age/early medieval transition burial ground at Collierstown, Co. Meath. Undoubtedly, Rob will be publishing this in further detail again, but this volume provides his current thoughts on the site and its wider contexts.
We have also submitted a text of a book – Early Medieval Ireland: Archaeological Excavations 1930-2009 for consideration to be a publication to the Royal Irish Academy. As a courtesy to the publishers, we are not making this text publicly available, but you can look at an earlier draft of this text here.
We will be returning to the subject of EMAP and its activities shortly, but this post at least let’s people know what we were up to in 2010!

Welcome to the EMAP Blog

Welcome to the EMAP Blog,

The Early Medieval Archaeology Project (EMAP) is a collaborative research project, funded by INSTAR and the Heritage Council. The Early Medieval Archaeology Project (EMAP) is a North/South; Archaeological Industry/University collaborative research project involving UCD School of Archaeology (University College Dublin); School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (Queen’s University, Belfast), and several commercial archaeological sector companies such as CRDS, ACS, Archer Heritage Ltd, Irish Archaeological Consultancy and Margaret Gowen & Co. Ltd. EMAP was established in 2008 with Heritage Council funding and has received INSTAR funding in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

It is well-known that the pace, scale and intensity of archaeological excavations in Ireland betweenc. 1992 – 2008 has transformed the way we view past Irish societies. Early medieval archaeology in Ireland has probably benefited most from this ‘Celtic Tiger’ boom in discovery and data gathering. The need to transform this grey literature ‘data into knowledge’ and the ‘publication crisis’ in Ireland have also been established by various professional and academic institutional policy reviews. Unfortunately the recent global economic crisis has now made these matters significantly worse – i.e. much remains to be published and synthesised at a time when Irish archaeology faces unprecedented challenges. EMAP aims to play a role in identifying, collating, interpreting and disseminating this massive volume of early medieval archaeological data and in furthering research agendas in early medieval archaeological scholarship.

EMAP’s key aims and objectives can be summarised as follows –

  • To investigate and analyse the history, character and results of early medieval archaeological excavations in Ireland.
  • To publish a series of books, peer-reviewed papers and to make available a website with an online database of early medieval sites to help transform unpublished ‘data into knowledge’.
  • To establish and promote collaborative research and graduate training links between the university and commercial archaeological sector.
Inspired by Jonathan Jarrett’s terrific blog A Corner of Tenth Century Europe, we have moved our EMAP Blog to WordPress and hope to make it a more interesting and engaging blog. More anon.