Crannogs by the Gaelic Elite Essay

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Examples of the mention of the use of the 'crannog' in Lough Laoghaire is stated by Brady and O'Conor to be referenced directly in the Annals of Ulster in 1436. These annals are "contemporary Gaelic records of the high profile events that occurred in Ireland, and such mention carries with it an automatic association of status and dramatic event." (Brady and O'Conor, nd)


Aidan O'Sullivan writes in the work entitled: "The Archaeology of Lake Settlement in Ireland" (1998) that in the Late Middle Ages...the Gaelic Irish experienced a revival in military power, giving rise to what is commonly known as the 'Gaelic Resurgence'" which was a time when raids increased on the English settlements which were richer and there was a "state of endemic warfare across the country." (O'Sullivan, 1998) Cultural and military renewal among the Gaelic Irish were drivers of the 'Resurgence' as well as the "continued Gaelicization of the Anglo-Norman Lords (the Gaill) and a discernible economic decline in both the Gaelic Irish economic landscape and in the English settlements of the Pale and elsewhere." (O'Sullivan, 1998) the landscape in Ireland was structured primarily around a "dispersed settlement pattern...prior to the coming of the Anglo-Normans..." (O'Sullivan, 1998)

O'Sullivan writes that the countryside while "intensively managed with farmsteads, field systems and routways..." The people in this area lived in "ringforts and cashels, crannogs, royal sites, monastic or church enclosures, and other types of dispersed settlement." (O'Sullivan, 1998) Towns were located at ports and some "monastic sites...may have served as towns."(O'Sullivan, 1998) the manors and granges of Anglo-Normans were important factors in the settled landscape. The manorial farms which were "centered around a manor house and a church" were inhabited by English peasant farmers. It is believed that the Anglo-Norman farms were most likely "worked by Irish tenants, who lived away from the manor house and the church, and therefore nucleated settlements may have been scarcer there." (O'Sullivan, 1998) it is likely therefore that the norm on the borders of the Anglo-Norman territory were dispersed settlements...with farmsteads scattered through the landscape such as mottes and ringwork castles." (O'Sullivan, 1998)

There is still much to be understood about the nature of Gaelic Irish settlements during the medieval and late medieval times however, it is apparent that both ringforts and crannogs were used as a site for those in the upper classes of that society with the towerhouses used a residences by the Gaelic Irish societies upper classes beginning in the "...fifteenth century onwards." (O'Sullivan, 1998) it is stated that the Gaelic Irish of west Ulster were "by the late medieval period...moving continuously through the countryside with their cattle herds and cruchs, in a nomadic settlement system..." And "riverine water-meadows and lakeshore grasslands were seen as valuable, self-renewing resources by farmers." (O'Sullivan, 1998)

O'Sullivan states that a "range of archeological and historical evidence for lake settlement in the medieval period and the late medieval period." (O'Sullivan, 1998) References in historical literature further give indications that "crannogs and islands were used as permanent settlements and as temporary fortifications by the Gaelic Irish in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries." (O'Sullivan, 1998) the military tactics of the Gaelic Irish were such that natural defensive features were used such as those of "lakes, islands, woodlands and bogs." (O'Sullivan, 1998) O'Sullivan states that there is sound archaeological as well as historical evidence that crannogs were occupied as dwellings during the medieval and late medieval periods.

O'Sullivan, just as did Brady and O'Conor, states that historically, the use of crannogs has been ignored by research and has "tended to greatly reduce the attention paid to this later material." (O'Sullivan, 1998) Stated to be the best evidence of archeology for the occupation of crannogs during the thirteenth and sixteenth century were findings of medieval 'everted-rim war and crannog ware..." discovered on several crannogs in the north..." (O'Sullivan, 1998) This type of pottery was hand-made and used for cooking and is stated to be easily distinguished due to its "dark, unglazed appearance and heavy gritty inclusions and texture." (O'Sullivan, 1998)

O'Sullivan states that it is simply obvious that the Gaelic Irish used crannogs and that the Anglo-Normans even used the crannogs at times as defensive military settlements. Twice mentioned in history is the crannog on Lough Oughter which was occupied by the O'Reilleys and which was taken in an attack in 1247 by Milid Mac Gosdelb and also is referred to as the site "from which Toirrdelbach mac Aeda Ua Conchobari escaped in 1246..." (1998)

O'Sullivan additionally states that the work of Giraldus Cambrensis entitled: "Topographia Hiberniae" a twelfth century account of Ireland that the Irish lakes "contain islands rising to some height and very beautiful. The lords of the land usually appropriate them as places of safety and refuge, as well as of habitation. They are inaccessible except by boats." (O'Sullivan, 1998)

O'Conor writes in the work entitled: "Later Medieval Settlement in North Roscommon" that evidence presently available indicates that "despite close contacts with the Anglo-Normans since the 12th century" that it took over two centuries for "Gaelic lords to regularly build defended structures that can be classified as castles." (nd) O'Conor reiterates in this work that a great amount of "documentary, pictorial, radiocarbon, dencrochronological and excavated evidence" is in existence to indicate that the crannogs "were widely occupied and used by Gaelic lords throughout the whole later medieval period." (nd)


It is clear from the works reviewed in this study that crannogs were used for purposes of occupation and for purposes of defense by the Gaelic Irish. The lacking in evidence for these findings exists due to the failure of archaeologists to focus research efforts toward documentation of the use of crannogs by the Gaelic Irish. This work has noted the political factors that rendered the crannogs of the Gaelic Irish to be so greatly underexamined in research and in archaeology. However, picture evidence, evidence from annal records and other literature sources make it very clear that the crannogs were used by the Gaelic Irish throughout the…[continue]

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