The Garranes Ringfort Project

The area around Bandon in countyCork is an archaeologically rich one, with plentiful remains from the prehistoric, early medieval and medieval periods. The site of Cashel hillfort in Clashanimud townland, to the northeast of Bandon, may have provided a focus for prehistoric activity in the region, particularly in the Late Bronze Age. Its scale and the amount of labour required in its construction suggest the existence of an organising elite and thriving community in the locality during late prehistory. This project explores the continued use of this landscape into the first millennium AD. The landscape of the first half of this millennium, the late Iron Age, is very difficult to identify archaeologically in this area. Therefore, it is the second half of the first millennium AD that must be relied upon to reveal large-scale patterns of landscape use in the post-Bronze Age period. The settlements of these later centuries are archaeologically very visible, typified by the ubiquitous ringfort.
Research Garranes Landscape MapGarranes Landscape (Map by Nick Hogan)            

Ringforts are numerous in the area surrounding Cashel hillfort, though only one of these has been excavated. Both the impressive morphology and excavated assemblage suggest that this site, Lisnacaheragh ringfort in Garranes townland (now generally referred to as Garranes ringfort), comprised a high status enclosure. Like the earlier (though larger) hillfort to its southeast, this ringfort suggests the existence of a powerful, organising elite and flourishing local community. Early historical and literary texts confirm the presence of a wealthy ruling elite in this region, the Eóganacht Raithlinn. The aforementioned ringfort in Garranes townland has been proposed as the seat of power for this group by scholars such as historian John Ryan and Garranes excavator Seán P. Ó Ríordáin (1942). It would seem, then, that the landscape surrounding both Cashel Hillfort and Garranes ringfort was a socially and politically important one in at least two different periods of the past.

Research Garranes Ringfort Aerial Photo
Garranes from the air (courtesy of UCC)

With this in mind, a study area for the first millennium AD was chosen centred on the location of these two sites. This desktop-based study is exploring the chosen landscape through the distribution of relevant archaeological remains. The study forms part of a larger research project, the Iverni Project, based in UCC, and directed by Professor William O’Brien.