Doonloughan: a seasonal settlement site on the Connemara coast

Emily Murray, Finbar McCormick

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    5 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    A series of shell middens and miscellaneous habitation sites, located in a dune
    system in west County Galway, have been exposed and are slowly disappearing
    through wind, wave and surface erosion. In 1992 a project was initiated to
    record, sample and date some of these sites and the radiocarbon results
    demonstrated that activity in the area spanned the Early Bronze Age through to
    the Iron Age and into the early and post medieval periods. This preliminary
    fieldwork was succeeded by the excavation of three of the better-preserved sites; a Bronze Age midden in 1994 and two early medieval sites (the subject of this paper), in 1997. The medieval sites dated to the late-seventh to ninth century adand were represented by a sub-circular stone hut with a hearth and the charred remains of a more ephemeral wooden tent-like structure. The discovery of a bronze penannular brooch of ninth/tenth century date at the latter site wouldsuggest that the settlements are not the remains of transient, impoverishedpeoples of the lower classes of society, eking out a living along the coast. The calcareous sands ensured good preservation of organic remains*fish and mammal bones, charred cereal grains, seeds and seaweed, and marine molluscs. Analyses of these indicated exploitation of marine resources but, otherwise, were comparable with the diet and economy represented by assemblages from established contemporary site types of the period. Unlike raths, cranno´gs and monastic settlements, however, the volume of material represented at the Galway sites was slight, despite the excellent preservation conditions. A range of seasonal indicators also suggested temporary habitation: probable latespring/summer occupation of the stone hut site and autumnal occupancy of the second, less substantial site. It is suggested that the machair plain, beside which the dunes are located, was most probably the attraction for settlers to the area and was exploited as an alternative pasture for the seasonal grazing of livestock.
    *
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1-52
    Number of pages52
    JournalRoyal Irish Academy. Proceedings. Section C: Archaeology, Celtic Studies, History, Linguistics and Literature
    Volume112C
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Keywords

    • Coastal archaeology, Early Medieval

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