Frequency Analyses of Historical and Archaeological Datasets Reveal the Same Pattern of Declining Sociocultural Activity in 9th to 10th Century CE Ireland

Rowan McLaughlin, Emma Hannah, Elizabeth Coyle-McClung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)
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Abstract

This paper discusses how the production rate of historical and archaeological data might contain unique information about past societies. The case study is the frequency of entries in the Annals of Ulster, a primary early medieval source from Ireland, which was compared to the frequency of archaeological material from early medieval Ireland. The two datasets were found to contain similar trends, namely a rapid increase in activity in the 7th Century, followed by sustained high levels of activity in the 8th Century, a decline in the Early 9th Century, low levels of activity in the 10th Century, until recovery in the Late 10th / Early 11th Centuries. This overall pattern of activity had not been noticed before. Turning to the archaeological record of Britain, we find strong similarities between the archaeological records of Scotland and Ireland, but less similarity between England and Scotland/Ireland. We argue that environmental pressures are unlikely to be driving the signal, and instead various socio-cultural factors in the past coalesced in Scotland and Ireland, leading to circumstances powerful enough to attenuate the enduring evidence for human activity, but expressing themselves silently, perhaps even in a way that was not immediately obvious to those witnessing them in the past. The finding offers insight into the relationship between long-term change and the primary production of history, and supports the idea that quantity of certain historical data can contain information about past realties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-24
JournalCliodynamics: The Journal of Theoretical and Mathematical History
Volume9
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2018

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