Agriculture, settlement and society in Early Medieval Ireland

Finbar McCormick

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    16 Citations (Scopus)


    During the early medieval period, Ireland was politically organised into a large number of very small kingdoms. Unlike much of Western Europe, it had not been incorporated into the Roman Empire, and as a consequence, settlement remained exclusively rural in character until the Viking period. Extensive documentary, archaeological, zooarchaeological and macro-plant evidence provides a detailed reconstruction of the livestock and arable economy of the period. Cattle ownership formed the basis of wealth as well as being an indicator of status in society, and this is reflected in its clear dominance of the livestock economy during this period. From the eighth century onwards, however, cereal production appears to grow in importance as subsistence farming gave way to the production of agricultural surplus. This is reflected in cereal diversification and in the construction of watermills and more efficient grain-drying kilns. At the same time, settlement underwent significant changes and the relative importance of cattle in some areas began to decline.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)119-130
    Number of pages22
    JournalQuaternary International
    Early online date07 Nov 2013
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2014


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