Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Early Medieval Ireland, AD 400-1100

Early Medieval Ireland, AD 400-1100: The evidence from archaeological excavations

Aidan O’Sullivan
Finbar McCormick
Thomas R. Kerr
Lorcan Harney
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Royal Irish Academy
Pages: 561
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Early Medieval Ireland, AD 400-1100
    Book Description:

    This book investigates and reconstructs evidence from archaeological excavations conducted between 1930 and 2012 and uses the findings to explore how the medieval Irish lived in the period AD 400-100.

    eISBN: 978-1-908996-29-9
    Subjects: Archaeology, Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Conor Newman

    It is appropriate that a book focusing on the practicalities of life in early medieval Ireland, the challenges, the resources, the know-how, the craft and the graft that made life not just tolerable but rich and varied, should itself arise from the very practical and pressing challenge of harvesting the immense corpus of new data arising from the decade of the development boomc.1998–2008 and merging it into a canon of existing knowledge.

    The decade 1998–2008 saw exponential increases in the numbers of archaeological excavations undertaken in Ireland, placing unsustainable pressure on the sector, and in particular...

  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-xiv)
    Aidan O’Sullivan, Finbar McCormick, Thomas R. Kerr and Lorcan Harney
  5. List of Figures
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. List of Plates
    (pp. xix-xxiv)
  7. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    What was it like to live in early medieval Ireland, in the centuries between ad 400 and 1100? How did people build and occupy their houses; organise their settlements; inhabit the wider landscape; and express through such activity a range of social, ideological and economic relationships? What was the impact of the new Christian religion on the ways that people lived and worked together, buried their dead and thought about their place in the world—and for how long did the church have to struggle to subdue pagan beliefs and practices? How did individuals, families and wider communities work the...

  8. Chapter 2 The History and Legacy of Early Medieval Archaeological Excavation in Ireland
    (pp. 13-46)

    People have been thinking about, investigating and writing about the landscapes and material culture of early medieval Ireland for hundreds of years, using many different appoaches to their study of the past. Archaeological excavation in particular has been key to our understanding of what Ireland and its early medieval society was like. The history and legacy of early medieval archaeological excavation in Ireland has been complex, and it has been influential on Irish archaeology generally, in terms of the many and various changes in methods, techniques and theories that have emerged over the past two centuries. While the discipline of...

  9. Chapter 3 Early Medieval Dwellings and Settlements
    (pp. 47-138)

    The early medieval settlement landscape of Ireland is one of the richest archaeological landscapes in the world. A long tradition of archaeological excavation of early medieval Irish settlements has produced a range of evidence relating to the daily lives and dwelling practices of the inhabitants of these settlements, as well as evidence for their use of the surrounding landscapes (see O’Sullivan, A. 2008; Edwards 2005). Such evidence can be used to help reconstruct the social, ideological and economic relationships that bound Irish society at this time together (see, for example, Stout, M. 1997). Early medieval settlement has long been the...

  10. Chapter 4 The Early Medieval Church
    (pp. 139-178)

    For many, the early medieval period in Ireland is synonymous with the arrival of Christianity and the growth, development and achievements of the early Irish church. This is a popular belief that has a long tradition behind it. Ireland’s early antiquarians were fascinated with the early medieval ‘Celtic’ church in Ireland, and subsequently scholars working in the twentieth century also tended to emphasise the church—in their popular writings at least—in terms of its having created a ‘Golden Age’ of saints and scholars. In this traditional narrative of early Irish cultural and artistic achievement, the early church in Ireland...

  11. Chapter 5 Farming in Early Medieval Ireland
    (pp. 179-214)

    Early medieval Irish society was essentially rural in character, and almost everybody depended on some element of agriculture for their livelihood, food and raw materials, and for their place in the social order. Most of the people living in the secular and ecclesiastical settlements mentioned in previous chapters, especially the commoners, hereditary serfs and slaves, would have spent much of their lives at work on the land—herding cattle, sheep and pigs; ploughing, sowing and harvesting crops; or building and repairing those field boundaries that existed. People’s lives would have been lived to the rhythms of the seasons: the times...

  12. Chapter 6 Early Medieval Crafts and Technology
    (pp. 215-246)

    Ireland’s early medieval crafts and technologies undoubtedly have long played a role in the popular imagination in Ireland; such intricate and beautifully made objects as the Ardagh and Derrynaflan chalices, the Tara brooch, or the Book of Kells represent the best of historic Irish artistic achievements (Henry, F. 1965; Ryan 1983, 1985; Wallace and Ó Floinn 2002). Early medieval artefacts have also been a major focus of past studies of the period, particularly through various art historical and typological studies of different objects types (see, for example, Hencken 1950; Edwards 1990, 2005). It is undoubtedly the case that Ireland’s early...

  13. Chapter 7 Early Medieval Trade and Exchange
    (pp. 247-282)

    Our understanding of the economy of early medieval in Ireland is somewhat problematical, partly because it remains largely untheorised. Most analysis is strongly influenced by the remarkable early Irish historical sources, and particularly their focus on investment in agriculture (see, for example, Kelly, F. 1997). Whatever theoretical debate there has been has largely originated from anthropological ideas about a socio-economic system of prestige goods, gift-giving and reciprocity in earlier times that ultimately is seen as having given way to a market economy from about the ninth century onwards (Doherty 1980, remains the key paper in this regard). In contrast, there...

  14. Chapter 8 Death and Burial in Early Medieval Ireland
    (pp. 283-318)

    In the past, and for some scholars still today, the centuries from ad 400 to 1100 have traditionally been termed Ireland’s ‘early Christian period’, reflecting the dominant role of Christianity in the ideology, belief systems, art and architecture of the Irish at this time, and nineteenth-and twentieth-century cultural nationalist views of the period (see, for example, Henry 1965; de Paor and de Paor 1967; Lynn 1986; Charles-Edwards 2000; Kerr 2007). There is no doubt that the introduction of Christian religious beliefs and practices brought major changes to Irish society, but the emerging archaeological evidence (as opposed to the historical evidence)...

  15. Chapter 9 Conclusions
    (pp. 319-334)

    In this book we have tried to investigate and reconstruct from archaeological excavation evidence how people in early medieval Ireland, AD 400–1100, lived together as households, kinship groups and other communities; worshipped God and buried their dead; worked the land as farmers; and made, used and exchanged objects within their own distinctive social worlds. This book was not meant to be an attempt at a general study of early medieval Ireland, which would have required a much stronger multidisciplinary approach using history and archaeology, and more use of landscape archaeology, artefact studies and palaeoenvironmental reconstruction. Instead, focusing on the...

  16. Appendix of Tables
    (pp. 335-470)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 471-562)