This post is my second research post, and I will be focusing on Ringforts, an archeological feature that is common in the area.
There following the Mesolithic period came the Stone Age (aka Neolithic period, c. 8,800 BCE – c. 2,500 BCE). This marks the appearance of settled living, with the first signs of farmers (stone tools, more permanent structures, pottery, etc). Several large-scale tombs and other funerary monuments were found, showing a fairly amazing amount of architectural knowledge. These monuments are sometime attributed to the Bronze Age, likely because of the architectural skill that would have been needed to create them. Cairns, or man-made piles of rocks, usually for religious or mapping purposes have been found from this time period as well.
The people of the Bronze Age (c. 2,500 BCE – c. 500 BCE) in Ireland left an increasing amount of artifacts behind. By this time metal was being used to make weapons, tools, and jewelry. Stone circles and graves aligned with sun rise and set were built at this time, along with many other grave and social sites. There are dozens of these archeological sites are found across Ireland, and many are very well preserved thanks to the boggy ground.
Ring forts, however, do not appear until the Iron Age (c. 500 BCE – c. 500 CE) when the architectural structures began to grow in size. There is some debate in the archeological community as to whether ring forts really date back this far. Some attribute them to much later periods, saying that they may have been built between 600 CE and 900 CE, though some theories claim they are as recent as the Medieval times, c. 1400 CE. The most common belief is that these forts were built towards the middle of the first century, and were then used as foundations for further building in the Medieval times. Despite a constant disagreement, the most accepted idea is that ringforts were built up until c. 1000 CE.
The theories on what ringforts were used for are almost as wide ranging as the amount of time during which they may have been built. There are four generally accepted hypotheses: agriculture, industry, defense, and status.
Due to the fact that farming was the norm in Ireland at this time, it is likely that these wall would have been made to either shield either a farmer or his cattle from the elements, or perhaps as a storehouse for cereal. In areas where there is little farming, ringforts often contain various other artifacts, such as pottery, leading archeologists to hypothesize that they were used as hubs on trading routs. When it comes to defense, the name 'ringfort' give a fairly good idea of what they are believed to have been used for. Along with serving to protect people from invaders, some theorize that these forts were markers for territory, to warn others that they were entering inhabited land. The final explanation, status, refers to nobles using the ringforts to differentiate themselves from the common people. All of these explanations have very substantial evidence supporting them, and it is therefor likely that different ringforts were used for different things, encompassing all of these different theories.
And, with that, we head off from Galway. Hope you found this post interesting!