A local walk through History, Megolithic – Ring forts, Tombs and standing stones.
Last Month I posted the following two articles talking about the history of some historic remains and geology around the area where I live, on the County Kilkenny and Tipperary Boarders.
The image below shows the area around the mountain of Slievenamon, County Tipperary ( left ) and the foot hills that flow to the right and form the shape of an oval from the north and south of the mountain.
The Boarder between county kilkenny and Tipperary flows about half way through this image from north to south.
Over the last few weeks and during the summer of 2014, I want to study and post about the Stone age – Iron age, pre Christian remains that can be found in almost every one of the woods that can be seen in the above image ( Mainly visible as dark green) along with the remains on the mountain of slievenamon itself.
I have lived here in county Kilkenny for about 11 years , moving from the UK in 2003, from the very first walks I took locally it was clear that this area is full a history in the form of old buildings, farms, churches and grave yards.
The remains that interested me the most have been those of pre-Christian times, Ireland became a Christian country between 300 to 400 Ad. These local pre-Christian remains then date from betweem 300Ad to 6000 or 8000 years ago.
The remains that can be found locally take the form of (Ring forts, Graves and tombs, Standing stones and stone circles) all can be found within the area covered in the pictures above.
During last weekend and this week, I have been visiting the above woodland to the south east of the larger area I am studying and have marked on the image below the types of remains I have found :
The remains that I have walk past on woodland paths and the ones that I have looked for by going deeper into the woods are by themselves amazing but by themselves do not tell you a story of who these people were and how they lived.
Over the next few weeks I want to uses four areas in total including the mountain of Slievenamon, to draw a picture of how I feel the people who built these structures lived.
How they worked this land, how they built their homes and how they buried and remembered their ancestors..
The Images below are all pictures of the structures and remains I have found in the woodland area shown and labelled in the images above, I have split them into groups as follows:
Ring forts, these were used for – homes and cattle pens.
Standing stones, used to record time and mark areas.
Graves and tombs, Hill top Burial grounds .
One last thing worth pointing out is that below in the Grave Gallery are two large tomb cap stones, shown in the first two images.
When I first found the stone in the first image, I wondered if it could be anything more than just a large stone left from ice sheets, during the ice age some 10,000 years ago. However I then found the stone in the second image a couple of days later, both these stones are almost the exact same dimensions. It is very unlikely then that these stones can be the result of the ice age and that they are cap stones to large tombs lying underneath.
This web sites show some examples of excavated tombs from this period : Mesolithic tombs
I also have a great example of a tomb like this here : The passage tomb of olioll olum king of munster
Image gallery of the ring fort
Gallery of Standing stones within the woods
Gallery of Graves and Cap stones within the woods
Cahergall Ring fort
Following on from yesterdays post relating to Leacanabuile ring for in county Kerry, the area around the fort also contains more ring forts from the same period in Irish history.
Cahergall ring fort is a massive stone construction, built between 400BC and 500AD, It can be found close to Cahersiveen, County Kerry. Leacanabuaile feels very much more like a dwelling place for people to both live and keep themselves safe from the surrounding Environment. This included raiders and wild animals stealing cattle.
On approaching Cahergall, the scale of this fort is massive in comparison to Leacanabuaile, the walls rise some four to six meters from the ground, perfectly flat and sloping inwards from the ground towards the top. The fort is some twenty five meters wide and the walls some four meter thick.
Inside the fort the inner walls are stepped and consisting of three levels, each of these levels has a series of steps that take you the upper level. The top of the wall is full grassed and walkable. The views of the coastline and landscape around the fort is spectacular from here.
Although this fort is described as a living place, it is very different from other forts around, It has only one internal enclosure and this structure does not look like it could be lived in, at least not in the same way as the buildings within the other forts.
The semi-circular wall’s forming a circle in the center of the fort appear to be very much the focus point from the main walls, almost like this place was a ceremonial theater of some kind. You have to ask why the very different design for this place compared to the other forts and why it was built on such a grand scale. It is very much the focus point for the local community in the same way a church or public building would be today.
As to who these people where, Pat Flannery has some very interesting ideas and his views on Irish per-christian history is very interesting :
Cahergall Fort has been restored by the OPW and is owned by the Irish State.
Cahergall is well worth a visit if you are in the area and only short distance from Leacanabuaile Stone Fort.
Leacanabuaile, ring Fort
Sitting on a hill side near Cahersiveen in County Kerry is Leacanabuaile Stone Fort, it is considered one of the best examples of an Irish ring fort.
The name translates to ‘Hillside of the Summer Pasturage’.
This is a magical place and just the kind of prehistory site I love to be in and photograph.
This is the Ireland I have been searching for, this site predates the Irish christian period, and is a period in Irish history that is little covered and has been swallowed up by post christian teaching.
On researching this site I came across this link from Pat Flannery:
Having visited Leacanabuaile ring fort, I feel that there is some credibility to Pats views on Irish history. The site is located only a few fields in from the Kerry coast-line, it is very believable that the area around this ring fort is the landing site for peoples who settled here.
Around 1500 B.C. the Milisians who came from the Middle East and the Ionian sea came to Kerry in Ireland.
The most interesting thing about all these peoples is that they were Ionian people who were seafarers and thrived much, much earlier than the Celts who were totally Continental and not very good seafarers, rather like the Swiss.
The Irish language and customs would seem to support a close affinity with ancient Greece, the Middle East and Persia. Their heroic stories of warriors and chariots for example are very similar.
Spain and Portugal was merely a stepping off point for the sea journey north to Ireland, but scholars have confused the much later Iberian Celts with the Milesians. Apart from the fact that Celts did not occupy any part of Spain or Portugal until long after the Milesians, believing that everybody who came from Spain was Spanish, let alone Celtic, is similar to the belief of many Americans that their Irish ancestors came from County Cork simply because that’s where their ships left from.
Wikipedia description of ring forts : Ring forts
Excavation of Leacanabuaile
An archaeological excavation uncovered iron knives and mill stones suggesting the existence of an early farming community here. Standing atop the outer walls which are up to 3 metres thick, its great to imagine how the fort looked and how people lived in the past.
Cahergall – ring fort
The area around Leacanabuaile also contains Cahergall – ring fort, an even more impressive fort and I will post about this very soon.