Craft activity and settlement in early medieval Ireland in the fifth to twelfth centuries AD
: Chronology and society

  • Emma Hannah

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


The long-term chronological trends associated with craftworking activities—handicrafts of both high and low technological skill, and everyday practices that were embedded in social and economic structures—over the course of the early medieval period (AD 400–1200) in Ireland are summarised and considered, focusing particularly on the period after c. AD 700 up to c. AD 1000. Through a data-driven analysis of radiocarbon dates, this thesis considers whether the process of urbanisation later in the second half of the period, namely the appearance of burgeoning Viking-age towns in the tenth century AD, was a pivotal moment of change in early medieval rural craft industry. Based on the findings, it argues that the defining moment was instead almost 200 years before the establishment of urbanism, and by contextualising the radiocarbon record as it relates to craft production and settlement with other published studies and archaeological proxies, it is shown the trends indicated in craftworking confirm recent findings of a general decline in activity in early medieval Ireland from the eighth century onwards. Significantly, several new nuances within the archaeological radiocarbon record have been identified in this thesis which have led to an updated narrative for change at the end of the period and provide new insights into changing settlement patterns. In addition, there is evidence to suggest that later rural craft industry in the time of the Viking towns may have been reorganised with an emphasis towards metalworking at isolated sites.
Date of AwardJul 2021
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Bridge Doctoral Training Partnership
SupervisorFinbar McCormick (Supervisor), Eileen Murphy (Supervisor) & Paula Reimer (Supervisor)


  • Early medieval Ireland
  • radiocarbon dating
  • chronology
  • craftworking
  • settlement

Cite this