Volume 1; General information and procedures followed for compilation of the individual archaeological reports
1.1 Introduction to the Project
1.1.1 The Millennium Forest Project is a research project established to restore and create new native woodlands and to create awareness amongst the general public through various initiatives. As part of the overall management of sixteen woodland sites, in addition to information gathering for each site, an archaeological survey was to be carried out as part of the brief during the summer of 2000. While initially sixteen woodland sites were proposed for archaeological survey, this was later reduced to fifteen sites with one site being surveyed by Dúchas-The Heritage Service.
The Project Mission of the Millennium Forests is "to ensure that all future generations can enjoy the benefits of Ireland's native forests".
1.1.2 The Objective of the Millennium Forests project was threefold:
To enrich and expand Ireland's native forests
(ii) To help people appreciate native forests
(iii) To develop the capability to manage native forests in a sustainable manner
1.1.3 The Millennium Forests Project is sponsored by AIB, the National Millennium Committee, the Forest Service and Cóillte in association with the Woodlands of Ireland Group, Dúchas-The Heritage Service and the Heritage Council. Cóillte was appointed to manage the project in 1999. It is the largest programme ever aimed at restoring native woodlands. There are sixteen sites throughout the country; 12 are Cóillte sites, two belong to the Forest Service Northern Ireland, one each belong to Dúchas-The Heritage Service and Westmeath County Council. The forest site owned by Dúchas-The Heritage Service was outside the brief and thus not examined as part of this archaeological survey.
1.1.4 The total area involved is close to 570ha (1,420 acres). The main operation at sites by the forestry service will include fencing against trespassing animals, especially deer and sheep, the removal of non-native species, planting native tree species and the provision of interpretative and recreational facilities. Other activities will be engaged at the general public with the project including education, training, promotion, involvement and public relations sub programmes. The planting of native trees will come under the 'Householder Tree Scheme'. Overall the budget amounts to £4 million for the project.
1.1.5 The policy of the project organisers is that these sites are managed sensitively using best ecological management practises involving ecological and archaeological survey of the sites concerned within the overall aim of placing the relevant data into management plans.
This project is in effect fifteen separate projects due to the
location of the fifteen woodland sites around the country and
the individual approach each site warranted in terms of the research
methods applied. Some sites involved more work than others, particularly
those across the border where research material had to be sourced
in Belfast. The archaeological component of the project extends
across thirteen counties, thirteen woodland sites located within
the Republic and two within Northern Ireland.
1.1.7 The criteria and tasks set down to be examined for the archaeological component of the survey as part of the overall project included:
* ground truthing and mapping of any site specific archaeological and other notable man-made structures (post 1700 AD), with the aid of the Sites and Monuments Records, where applicable (maps and notes).
* collation of any general historical information pertaining to the surrounding area that may be used in future interpretative and general publications on the project.
* to liase with the site managers for each woodland site as the survey was being conducted and notifying them of any new monuments/features discovered. Cóillte inventory maps were provided for each site (scale 6 inch to 1 mile) which were used to map any and all monuments/structures found at this scale.
* Compilation of all material in a final report, which is to consist of all the above and to include any management advice on the protection of key monuments/structures identified on site.
The purpose of these criteria was to provide information on each site to increase knowledge of past human activity in these areas and to address the appropriate sensitive management of these woodlands.
1.1.8 This report provides a baseline archaeological survey for each woodland site and based upon the projected works for each site, outlines the scope of the possible impacts on archaeology and the appropriate archaeological mitigations to offset these.
1.1.9 The archaeological survey component of the study was carried out over a three month period between July and August 2000 in tandem with associated historical and cartographic research.
1.1.10 The forest sites, were invariably located within portions of larger woodlands, which ranged in size from 8 to 104 hectares. As part of the project's main aim, the conifers planted within each of these forest sites would be clearfelled and were being prepared for planting in the autumn of 2000. During the course of the field survey component of the study, this clearfelling had either been completed or was ongoing. The sizes of the clearfelled areas ranged from 2 hectares to 70 hectares and in nine of the fifteen sites, comprised the entire forest site. The remaining forest sites comprised either semi-natural woodland or had previously been planted with native species. These sites warranted a more detailed survey as in many cases, they represent sites which have been wooded for centuries and had a high potential for yielding archaeological sites.
The individual woodland sites have been assigned Site Numbers
and are outlined below for the purposes of the archaeological
survey. The forest sites are placed in alphabetical order according
to county as follows:
List of Forest Sites
Number Site Name County
Site 1 Castlearchdale Fermanagh
Site 2 Derrygill Galway
Site 3 Rosturra Galway
Site 4 Rossacroo Kerry
Site 5 Woodlands Kilkenny
Site 6 Lacca Laois
Site 7 Tourmakeady Mayo
Site 8 Derrygorry Monaghan
Site 9 Cullentra Sligo
Site 10 Glengarra Tipperary S. Riding
Site 11 Favour Royal Tyrone
Site 12 Portlick Westmeath
Site 13 Camolin Wexford
Site 14 Ballygannon Wicklow
Site 15 Shelton Wicklow
1.2 The Archaeological Study
1.2.1 The Scope of the Archaeological Study
126.96.36.199 The objective of the archaeological study was primarily to identify known archaeological sites and areas of archaeological potential so that the impact of proposed clearfelling and planting operations could be fully assessed and appropriate mitigation suggested.
188.8.131.52 The study provides a detailed background on each forest site through an examination of the archaeological and historical record drawn from the existing archaeological, documentary and historical resources.
184.108.40.206 The study of each forest site is based on:
* a detailed historical study for each area
* a study of the historic maps in relation to the present rural environment (Figures 1-69) for each location
* an analysis of the existing recorded archaeological monuments in the vicinity of each site
* a record of all stray finds from each site and the surrounding townlands
* photographic record of each site (Plates 1-69)
* digital imaging of this information (Figures 1-69)
1.2.2 The Function of the Study
220.127.116.11 The function of the study is to identify sites and areas of archaeological significance and provide definition on the nature, extent and context of these sites within each area.
18.104.22.168 The function of the overall pre-planting study is to identify the sources, scale and nature of felling and planting procedures and their impacts in an attempt to propose ameliorative measures, where possible, to ensure the safeguarding of any monuments, features or finds of antiquity.
1.2.3 The Structure of this Document
22.214.171.124 Because of the scale of this project, the study has been divided into three main volumes.
1 outlines the structure of the document as well as establishing
the nature of the archaeological survey and the methodology employed.
It describes the types of archaeological sites present in the
forest environment and places these within their various time
periods. A general history of woodlands within Ireland is also
summarised. Volume I provides a framework of suggested impacts
and mitigation measures for the planting and clearfelling of forests
as well as outlining criteria for the protection and enhancement
of both the known and potential archaeological heritage.
Volume 2 provides detailed site specific information on each forest site as outlined in section 126.96.36.199 above and section 2 below.
Volume 3 contains all of the figures and plates related to each of the sites described in volume II.
1.3.1 This study identifies known archaeological sites both within each forest site and in addition the known archaeological sites which lie adjacent to or in the immediate environs of the forests.
Archaeological and Historical Background
This section involves a comprehensive search through documentary and literary references as well as cartographic sources. Due to the time scale of the study and the nature of the forest site locations (some being located well outside known towns or villages), the material gleaned from sources has proved minimal. Individual archaeological and historical societies have been important in gauging the amount of information available on each site. The location and nature of some of the sites inspected have yielded little historical information pertaining to forest cover due to the relatively recent nature of planting in some of the surveyed areas and the lack of significant historical and archaeological sites in their vicinities.
The Field Study
188.8.131.52 A program of field walking, inspection and survey has been carried out across each of the 15 sites associated with the project. The field survey component of the project was conducted between July and the end of August 2000.
was undertaken to assess the following criteria:
(i) Current land use
(ii) Access to the sites
(iii) Inspection of known or potentially new archaeological sites
(iv) To record any potential upstanding building(s)/remains within the boundaries of the selected woodland sites
(v) Examine the nature of the topography of each site
(vi) Gather any additional environmental information deemed relevant to the survey
The program of field walking was carried out thoroughly in as far as possible (see section 184.108.40.206-220.127.116.11 outlined below) across each of the woodland sites.
The main aim of the survey was to identify, locate and describe
known archaeological sites and potential archaeological sites
within the designated areas. The field walking also sought to
locate any low visibility archaeological monuments which had little
surface expression. A GPS instrument was utilised to record the
location of any identified archaeological monuments encountered
in the field. This instrument enables the location of any known
archaeological site or potential site down to a six digit national
grid reference using satellite enhancement. However, as was revealed
during the survey, the use of the GPS instrument was extremely
limited due to the nature of the tree canopy coverage within the
woodland sites. This resulted in the inability of the instrument
to identify and read co-ordinates as the satellite radar were
unable to penetrate to the forest floor.
There are seven types of topographic locations which have been identified across all of the fifteen woodlands sites, each displaying different types of archaeological sites. The topographic locations consist of the following:
Upland; steep hillside
(ii) River valley
(iii) Drumlin countryside with conical hills
(iv) Gently rolling landscape
(v) Lowlying landscape; wet and dry margins
(vii) Rivers, lakes, streams within forest sites
The relevant category or categories are assigned according to each forest site in volume II.
18.104.22.168 The sites varied considerably in terms of size, terrain and accessibility and included both forested and clearfelled areas. The forested areas included conifers of various ages set to be clearfelled as part of the project, in addition to numerous deciduous species ranging from the newly planted to the ancient.
Only two of the study areas, Rosturra and Tourmakeady contained previously recorded and identified archaeological sites, a ringfort and two possible crannogs respectively. No new archaeological sites were discovered. A number of sites and features dating to the last few centuries, namely vernacular cottages and field walls, were investigated, although in most cases they represent sites and features clearly marked on the 3rd edition Ordnance Survey maps that form the basis for both the SMR and Cóillte site location maps.
22.214.171.124 Both the forested and clearfelled areas presented a number of specific problems in relation to traditional archaeological field survey methods. The main problems associated with wooded areas were accessibility and visibility. The wooded areas ranged from planted conifers to planted and natural deciduous woodland. The older stands of planted conifers offered the best in terms of visibility and accessibility as the trees are planted in widely separate rows with little or no underbrush and all of the branches high over head (Plate 1). As the trees were planted in rows, good visibility over long distances was possible, as was ease of access throughout the wooded area.
126.96.36.199 However, areas containing younger planted conifers (Plate 2) were almost completely inaccessible and had a visibility of near zero as their branches extended to the ground and in many cases filled the areas between the rows. These areas could not be properly surveyed.
Wooded areas consisting primarily of deciduous trees, both planted
and natural/semi-natural had an overall lower level of visibility
than coniferous woods. Areas containing mature deciduous trees
supported thick undergrowth which while generally allowing access
proved a problem for visibility over extensive areas (Plate 3).
This problem was exacerbated as the surveys were conducted during
high summer when the foliage of both trees and undergrowth were
at their fullest.
188.8.131.52 The accuracy of the field survey carried out in these areas was compromised by the poor visibility coupled with the sheer size of many of these sites. This factor resulted in the conclusion that detailed survey required a team of trained personnel and longer survey time, both factors outside the brief of this project. Stands of younger deciduous trees presented the same problems as young conifers, namely limited accessibility and even poorer visibility.
184.108.40.206 Clearfelled areas, of which many of the sites consisted, posed a different series of problems for archaeological survey. While generally providing greater visibility over long distances, the nature of the clear-felling meant that the ground had been seriously disturbed and in many cases strewn with debris (Plate 4). This meant that while larger archaeological features and monuments were readily visible, more ambiguous features were completely hidden if not destroyed during the process of clear-felling. Likewise, while access was generally more easily obtained here than amongst the younger stands of planted trees, the difficulty of movement over such broken terrain reduced the efficacy of the field surveys.
220.127.116.11 Each of the sites were surveyed within the amount of time budgeted notwithstanding the problems raised above. Existing access roads and pathways were used when present with the areas in between being investigated where access was possible. Clearfelled areas were walked in a zigzag pattern, as the debris and ground disturbance allowed, to maximise the chances of locating archaeology. Areas containing mature conifers were surveyed by walking back and forth between the planted rows in intervals of approximately 25m. The banks of watercourses, including small streams and small rivers, and in two cases, lakeshore areas, were investigated (where the undergrowth allowed) as some types of archaeological sites tend to be found in such areas. In some cases, the surveys were extended outside the boundaries of the study areas for the purpose of investigating previously recorded archaeological and historical sites.
18.104.22.168 While all of the sites were investigated in the field, only those sites containing mature conifers can be considered to have been definitively surveyed. Areas clear-felled at the time of survey, while completely covered, may contain areas of archaeological potential which were rendered invisible by the processes used during clear-felling. Deciduous woodlands and newly planted conifers were by far the least well covered and cannot in anyway be considered to have been definitively surveyed. The lack of both accessibility and visibility meant that a true, 100% survey of these sites would have required considerably more time and more people and was thus not possible within the scope of this study.
In conclusion the results of the field walking, while thorough,
cannot be considered as representing the definitive archaeological
record of each site owing to the problems summarised below:
(i) the time of year e.g. summer
(ii) clear-felling process
(iii) poor visibility in young coniferous forests
(iv) poor-low visibility at forest floor
(v) poor-impossible access in young forest and dense undergrowth in deciduous forests
(vi) inability of GPS system to record accurately
1.3.4 The Desk Study
22.214.171.124 The desk study presented in this report has involved comprehensive research through all available and relevant records pertaining to each site and its environs on a per county basis. The primary source of information for the desk study were the files of the Sites and Monuments Record (SMR) of Dúchas-The Heritage Service, Department of Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands.
Sites and Monuments Record (SMR)
The Sites and Monuments Record provides the framework for the list of archaeological sites and all other archaeological records relating to the forest sites researched for the purposes of this report. The SMR (as revised in the light of fieldwork) formed the basis for the establishment of the statutory Record of Monuments and Places pursuant to Section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act 1994.
126.96.36.199 The 6" Ordnance Survey maps were acquired covering the relevant woodland sites. The relevant sheet references for each site according to county is outlined in volume 2 according to each forest site. The SMR is available for each county throughout Ireland and comprises 6" constraint maps published in A0 books which can be inspected at the offices of Dúchas-The Heritage Service in Dublin as well as at main public libraries located in each county throughout the country. Each county is covered by a series of maps and accompanied by a manual in which relevant information pertaining to each SMR site is outlined according to its relevant sheet number. The maps begin with Sheet 1 and are produced at a reduced 6" scale. The number of maps covering each county is depicted on an index sheet at the front of each book with notable towns and cities highlighted for ease of use. In the case of researching smaller areas which are not located near any notable town, the Townland Index is available. This book provides a list of all townlands in Ireland according to each county and lists the relevant 6" Ordnance Survey sheet reference in which a said townland appears.
188.8.131.52 The SMR files, maps and manuals record all known upstanding archaeological monuments, their original location (in cases of destroyed monuments) and the position of possible sites identified as cropmarks on vertical aerial photographs. This is based on a comprehensive range of published and publicly available documentary and cartographic sources. The information held in the SMR files is read in conjunction with the constraint maps. The SMR is constantly updated and is the first stage in the preparation of a national archaeological survey, with inventories also published at an interim stage.
184.108.40.206 Each of the sites shown on the 6" O.S. maps is surrounded by a proposed Area of Interest; this indicates a zone around the known extant remains in which related sub-surface archaeological features are likely to occur, and simply suggests a zone of archaeological potential in which proposed works should be avoided. Each site, together with its Area of Interest, is represented to scale. The accompanying manual to each book of SMR constraint maps details the information on each SMR site according to the sheet in which it is located and includes information such as national grid reference (NGR) of each site; the townland in which it is located and the classification of the site type. Each woodland site was plotted onto the relevant portion of the SMR map highlighting the archaeological sites within and in close proximity to each specific location (Figures 1-69). From the 6" Ordnance Survey maps, a list of the archaeological sites and their proximity to each woodland site was compiled (see volume two for each individual site).
220.127.116.11 The information held within the SMR for each county varies according to the extent to which field work has been carried out by Dúchas-The Heritage Service. For Co. Mayo, the descriptions of the relevant SMR sites are brief including reference to their presence in cartographic sources as well as journals. The files are continually updated based on additional fieldwork conducted. SMR files for counties such as Wicklow provided detailed information on the site itself along with comprehensive historical and documentary references.
18.104.22.168 Each archaeological site has a corresponding SMR Number. For example, site 21 on sheet 19 in Clare is written CL019:021. The prefix "CL" refers to the county in which the site is located e.g. "CL" refers to County Clare. Each county has its own individual prefix. For the purposes of this study the SMR prefix for the relevant counties are outlined below:
County SMR Prefix
South Tipperary TS
22.214.171.124 The sites are described to establish the general archaeological presence within and in the vicinity of the various woodland sites as well indicating the possible impact of forestry on the archaeological environment.
Each SMR site is described as it occurs firstly, within the individual
woodland sites and secondly, as they occur in the immediate environs
of the forest sites. A maximum zone of 2500m was examined in the
vicinity of each site to assess the archaeological landscape in
these locations. The size of this zone was simply used in some
instances as an indication of the closest recorded archaeological
monuments to forest sites which were not located close to any
known archaeological site.
The classification attributed to each archaeological site refers to its importance in the archaeological record. This classification is based on both its presence in the cartographic record i.e. Ordnance Survey maps and its description from associated field work. The classification is a broadly based classification and is used as guidance only as to the nature and importance of the site. A 'Classification Table' is included in Appendix 2 describing the types of monuments specific to each category.
The Topographical Files of The National Museum of Ireland
A comprehensive search through the Topographical Files of the National Museum of Ireland was carried out to record any stray finds from the relevant woodland sites and their surrounding areas according to county. The National Museum of Ireland (NMI) is the repository of the national collection of archaeological objects built up over a century with new additions added regularly. The Irish Antiquities division of the NMI has in its care a large paper archive including records, reports and other material from the late eighteenth century to the present day. The Topographical files identify recorded stray finds in the Museum archive which are provenanced to townland. The files on finds, which have been donated to the State in accordance with National Monuments legislation, sometimes include reports on excavations undertaken by NMI archaeologists earlier in the twentieth century, including 6" co-ordinates for the precise find spot and detailed descriptions on the finds themselves.
Documentary and literary references were also consulted. The compilation of this report involved an in depth examination of a series of 6" and 25" Ordnance Survey maps for the area and a detailed review of the associated historical maps of the area where available. The research and enclosed map extracts are derived from The Map Library, Trinity College Library, Dublin (Figures 1-69). The selected woodland sites have been plotted onto the relevant maps and an analysis of the maps was carried out to reveal additional information on the nature of these locations and their previous use/uses.
From an examination of the place-names for each of the forest sites one common form of place name has been observed. In addition, the place-name derivation of each county, townland, barony and parish are examined in closer detail in volume two in relation to each forest site.
The most predominant place name observed throughout those examined is "Kill". This usually forms part of either the townland, barony or parish name.
"Kil(l)": is the anglicised version of the Irish form "Cill" meaning church and is the most frequently occurring portion in Irish place-names. It is the dative singular of the word "ceall", derived from the Latin "cella", which in Classical Latin referred to a "room within a building". In place-names it has a range of associated meanings: "church, monastic settlement or foundation, churchyard, graveyard". Of these, in place-names, "monastic settlement" is the commonest reference, particularly where the name can be shown to pre-date the ecclesiastical reforms of the twelfth century. It is the most prevalent ecclesiastical element in parish names, townland names and minor names. Because of its anglicised version "kill" it is often indistinguishable from the Irish word "coil" or "wood". (Flanaghan & Flanaghan 1994, 50).
The Department of Folklore in University College Dublin holds the definitive record of all material relating to this discipline. A thorough search was carried out in this archive to attempt to identify any information relating to the forest sites in question (Appendix 3). The archive of the Department of Folklore is divided into two main components:
The Manuscript Reference Collection
(i) The Schools Collection
Each collection was searched using firstly the barony name and secondly the parish name of the known forest site on a county wide basis. This resulted in a general reference to various books and manuscripts within each collection in which material could be read in relation to a specific parish for each county. Each reference was examined in the hope of revealing any reference material pertaining to a forest in the parish.
The individual forest sites to be surveyed were investigated through both of these collections and a comprehensive amount of references were identified as a result. These have been listed according to each site in volume II. The references listed are denoted by two different prefixes as follows:
Irish Folklore Commission-Schools Collection
IFC.M Irish Folklore Commission-Manuscript References
For those forest sites which were located in the west of Ireland in particular the search was considerably slowed due to the archive material being only available in Irish with no English translation e.g. Tourmakeady Woodland, Co. Mayo, Cullentra, Co. Sligo and Derrygill and Rosturra, Co. Galway. However, despite the volume of references collated (Appendix 3) the result of the search proved time consuming and not very fruitful.
In addition the Department of Folklore aided in other research pertaining to historical information with its comprehensive library and in particular, that related to the provenance of place names and townlands for each county.
1.4 Archaeology and the Landscape
1.4.1 What follows is a chronological overview of the main time periods in Irish prehistory and history with specific references to the archaeological sites found within and in the vicinity of the forest sites surveyed in this project.
The Mesolithic 7000 BC to 4500 BC
The first humans to colonise Ireland arrived after the last glacial period around 9000 years ago. They encountered a landscape dominated by extensive deciduous forest. Archaeological evidence from this period indicates that these people practised an economy based upon hunting, gathering and fishing and who focused their settlements on Ireland's rivers, lakes and coastal regions where they could best exploit all of the food types available to them. The archaeological record form this period is scant, being limited to a few habitation sites and isolated finds of their distinctive stone tools.
Much of the food collected by Ireland's inhabitants during the Mesolithic came from the forest itself. Archaeological excavations of their habitation sites has revealed the bones of wild pig, red deer, and several bird species including wood-pigeon, woodcock, capercaillie, grouse and duck. These species would have thrived in Ireland's primeval forests. Fish was also an important resource and included mainly salmon, trout and eel. Large quantities of burnt hazel nut shells have also been recovered from Mesolithic sites, in addition to the seeds of wild pear and crab apple. These findings indicate that the forest was an important source of both animal and plant foods (Waddell 1998:12).
While Ireland's Mesolithic inhabitants left little in the way of visible reminders of their occupation, findings of their distinctive stone tools have been made in widely disparate areas of the country. In fact, a number of these tools have been found in the townland of Camolin, Co. Wexford, in which the forest site of the same name is found. The Mesolithic inhabitants of this area would have exploited the extensive forests that once covered the area in addition to the nearby coastal region.
The Neolithic 4500 BC to 2300 BC
The dawn of the Neolithic Period in Ireland heralded the introduction of agriculture and associated forest clearance. It was likely introduced by colonists from Britain and the continent, who gradually replaced/assimilated the indigenous Mesolithic population. Neolithic farmers practised small scale mixed agriculture with an emphasis on livestock including cattle, sheep and pigs. Crops appear to have fulfilled a secondary role and included mainly wheat and barley. Despite the advent of agriculture, forest resources such as wild pig, red deer and hazel nuts remained an important aspect of the Neolithic economy. Pollen evidence suggests that forest clearance began initially at a small scale but eventually became widespread by around 4000 BC. By the end of the Neolithic Period most of the island was inhabited, with settlement focused on higher ground and hill slopes where the forests were thinner and thus easier to clear and the soils lighter and easier to till (Aalen 1978: 53-58).
Settlement data from the Neolithic is quite scarce, with the archaeological record for the period being overwhelmingly dominated by monumental structures, most of which are mortuary related. Known as Megalithic tombs, these monuments are found all over Ireland and are divided into four main types, court, passage, portal and wedge tombs, all of which have specific characteristics and distributions throughout the country.
The only site dating to this period encountered during the course of this study is a wedge tomb located almost 1km north-west of Rossacroo forest in Co. Kerry. Wedge tombs are chronologically the latest and the most numerous of the Megalithic tombs. They are found all over Ireland although they are particularly concentrated in the West, especially Clare, Kerry and Cork. The may have been in use as early as 3000 BC, although most date from the end of the Neolithic Period and the Early Bronze Age, 2500 BC to 1700 BC (Waddell 1998). They general consisted of a single chamber constructed using orthostats and one or more capstones. They are called wedge tombs as many have a narrow wedge shaped or trapezoidal chamber. They vary considerably in size with the chamber ranging from 2m to 9m in length.
The excavation of these tombs have revealed deposits of both cremated and unburnt human bones, although cremated remains predominate. They often contained the remains of a number of individuals in addition to animal bones and artefacts including primarily pottery.
The increasing scale of development in Ireland in recent years has lead to the discovery of a greater number of house sites dating to the Neolithic. These sites constitute very important finds and are usually found by complete surprise as there are rarely any surface indications of their presence. The likelihood of such a site being discovered during activities related to forestry development, particularly clearfelling, road building or excavating drainage ditches, is always a potential.
The Bronze Age 2300 BC to 600 BC and The Iron Age 600 BC to 400AD
These periods constitute the later half of the prehistoric period in Ireland. Their occurrence is based primarily upon the introduction of metal working technology to Ireland, copper and bronze initially followed by iron.
Whereas forest clearance in the Neolithic was characterised by small scale, sporadic episodes, followed by lengthy periods of forest regeneration, The final Neolithic and Early Bronze Age landscape shows signs of widespread deforestation associated with the growth of blanket bog in upland areas and the colonisation and clearance of lowland areas (Aalen 1983: 365). This is mirrored by the distribution of sites dating to this period. As in the previous period, many of the sites dating to the Bronze Age were related to mortuary functions and include cist burials, alone or in cemeteries, barrows, ring barrows and ring ditches.
very common site type dating primarily to the Middle/Late Bronze
Age, are fuluchta fiadh, which have been found in increasing numbers
in recent years and consist of horseshoe shaped mounds of burnt
stone. The burnt stone is the result of a process of heating the
stones and then placing them in a trough filled with water. This
had the effect of heating the water to boiling in which large
pieces of meat would be inserted to cook. The mounds were formed
through the discard of used burnt stones. The sizes of these mounds
indicate repeated use over considerable lengths of time. While
no fuluchta fiadh have been found within or close to any of the
survey areas, their location in heavily forested terrain would
be very difficult. These sites generally occur close to a water
source and as many of the forest sites included in this study
have streams or rivers flowing through them, the presence of fuluchta
fiadh along their heavily wooded banks is certainly a high possibility.
The only sites possibly dating to the Bronze Age encountered in the course of this study include the wedge tomb near Rossacroo and a standing stone located 850m NW of Shelton in Co. Wicklow. As mentioned in the previous section, wedge tombs can date from the Late Neolithic to the Early Bronze Age. Without excavation, the date of the wedge tomb at Rosacroo cannot be more precisely dated. Standing stones constitute a common feature of the Irish landscape and are found throughout the country. They consist of upright stones, 1m to 3m in height and are difficult to date precisely as their excavation very rarely reveals any related features which may yield datable material. However, they are commonly believed to be features of the Late Neolithic/Bronze Age although examples dating to later periods are certainly known. In fact they are still being erected today for use as cattle scratchers. Their function is similarly ambiguous. Some have been found associated with Bronze Age burials and megalithic tombs but most have no related archaeology and may very likely have been used as markers of territorial divisions (O'Kelly 1989: 228). Standing stones occurring in alignments and circles are also well known in Ireland and may have been used to mark astronomical events and/or were used for ritual purposes.
The Iron Age represents the final stage of Ireland's prehistory and one of the most enigmatic. Beginning with the introduction of iron technology around 600 BC and ending with the introduction of Christianity in the 5th century AD, the Iron Age is characterised by the general absence of known settlement types, burial forms and pottery in addition to the uniqueness of the period in comparison to its contemporaries in Britain and on the Continent and in general, its apparent continuity with Late Bronze Age (Cooney and Grogan 1994: 200-202; O'Kelly 1989: 245). All of this evidence runs contrary to the popular image of the Irish Iron Age as the time in which Ireland became "Celtic", with the invasion of successive waves of people from the continent as is outlined in the Mythological Cycles (O'Kelly 1989: 252-255). There is no archaeological evidence for a large scale population intrusion during this period and the major external influence on Ireland may have been Roman-Britain (Cooney and Grogan 1994: 200-202).
This being said, there are comparatively few Iron Age sites known in Ireland and no site types specific to this period. This, coupled with the evidence for climactic deterioration and forest regeneration during this period has been taken as evidence for social decline during the Iron Age. However, it is more likely that the absence of well dated Iron Age sites in Ireland is due to the possible similarity of sites from this period to those from the preceding and following periods.
This being said, it is certainly possible that many of the sites associated with this study dating to the Early Christian period may in fact date to the Iron Age. These include ringforts/cashels, and crannogs. As well, a number of the more ambiguously datable site types such as earthworks and enclosures may date to any period including the Iron Age.
The Early Christian Period AD 400 to AD 1167
The beginning of this period is marked by the coming of St. Patrick and the introduction of Christianity to Ireland and the end by the Anglo-Norman invasion. The Early Christian Period is often viewed as Ireland's Golden Age and is characterised by the construction of numerous ecclesiastical sites including churches, monasteries and round towers in addition to a flourishing of knowledge, writing and art. Many of the archaeological sites found in close proximity to the forest sites and including all three of the archaeological sites from within the forest areas date to the Early Christian Period.
Ringforts and there stone counterparts, cashels, constitute the most common of all monuments in the Irish landscape with numbers in excess of fifty thousand. They consist of circular enclosures 25m to 60m in diameter bounded by earthen banks or stonewalls and an external ditches. They occur in all areas throughout the country with nearly every townland having one or more example. They are commonly believed to have been enclosed farmsteads with internal structures for habitation and likely held livestock as well. However, the excavation of ringforts often reveal no internal structures and thus many were likely used primarily for holding livestock. Examples from the study area include one located 200m east of Woodlands in Kilkenny, two near Derrygorry in Co. Monaghan, 450m to the SE and 650m to the east respectively. Other examples include one just 80m south of Portlick in Westmeath and three close to Ballygannon in Wicklow. A fine example of a ringfort is located close to Favour Royal in Co. Tyrone (Plates 48-49). One of the sites contained within the study areas includes a ringfort at Rosturra in Co. Galway (Plate 12).
Another form of settlement site from the Early Christian Period are crannogs. These are artificial islands constructed of wood and earth and are generally located in small lakes close to the shore. On these islands were constructed houses and due to the effort in making them and their defensibility, in addition to finds from their excavation, indicate that they often constituted higher status habitation sites than ringforts. Two possible crannog sites are listed for Tourmakeady in Co. Mayo (Plates 28-29). While they certainly look like crannogs, the forest manager, Michael Cox maintains they were constructed recently through the dumping of brush wood in the lake. In addition, local knowledge indicates the lake itself may be artificial having been built in the 19th century soon after the land was taken over by Bishop Plunkett.
Other sites encountered during the course of the study and dating to this period include an ecclesiastical complex comprising an enclosure, church and graveyard 270m to the south of Shelton in Co. Wicklow. Many other sites including churches, graveyards, holy wells and crosses may date to this period but until further work has been completed, no precise date may be given for these sites and they may date to the Early Christian, Medieval or even later Periods.
Likewise, the ringforts, cashels and crannogs of the Early Christian Period may in fact date to earlier periods. Precise dates for these sites will only be obtainable through excavation. Many of the other, less well defined sites including enclosures and earthworks may date from the Early Christian Period.
The Medieval Period AD 1167 to AD 1500
The Anglo-Norman invasion of Ireland in 1167 AD heralded renewed forest clearance and the reclamation of bogland, population expansion and the creation of new settlement types, including the establishment of towns and villages. Land clearance and field systems were more extensive than in earlier periods, often radiating outwards from settlement nuclei and the manors (Castles, tower houses, motte and baileys and moated sites) of the lords (Aalen 1978: 114-115). In many of the Irish held areas of the island, settlement remained diffuse and the economy based upon husbandry.
A number of sites dating to the Medieval Period are located in close proximity to the study areas. A motte is located 210m east of Portlick in Westmeath. Mottes are large artificial mounds, often associated with a bailey, an enclosed area, at the base of the mound. They were built for defensive purposes and would have had wooden buildings to house soldiers and others. They were primarily built during the initial expansion of the Anglo-Normans in Ireland and thus date primarily the end of the 12th century and the beginning of the 13th century. Also located nearby Portlick is the impressive site of Portlick Castle (Plate 54). This structure dates to the Medieval Period with later additions added in the subsequent centuries.
Another castle site is located in Co. Wicklow 1000m NE of Ballygannon. Very little remains of the castle beyond the foundations of a single tower and square fortifications. Located just over 2 km from Glengarra Wood in Tipperary is the remains of a fortified house and bawn wall. Fortified houses are often very like tower houses and generally date to the latter part of the Medieval Period and into the Post-Medieval Period. They are basically large houses built with defence as a prime concern as is evident in the thickness of their walls and other defensive features.
A moated site is located 720m SW of Camolin forest in Co. Wexford. Moated sites are defended habitation sites and are generally square or rectangular in plan and surrounded by a high earthen bank and ditch. They generally constitute settlement sites that would have contained a number of dwellings protected by the bank and ditch. They are most commonly found in outlying areas, far from the protection of the castles and towns.
A number of other sites may date from this period including churches, graveyards, cross slabs and holy wells. Unfortunately without excavation or other forms of more detailed investigation, accurate dates for the construction and use of these sites will remain unknown. However, many of the church sites are currently in ruins and may very well date to the Medieval Period or even earlier. Another particular type of site is the 'Killeen' or children's burial ground of which there are two in close proximity to Rosturra in Co. Galway. They were primarily used for the burial of un-baptised children who could not be placed within the churches' graveyards. They are often circular in appearance and surrounded by stone walls, often incorporated into larger field systems.
The Post-Medieval Period AD 1500 to AD 1700
The Post-Medieval Period is generally associated with the resurgence of English control and colonisation in Ireland and particularly the institution of large plantations. This was coupled with the reuse of castles and tower houses and the construction of manor houses and fortified houses. The structures at Castle Archdale in Co. Fermanagh close to the forest site is a prime example. Another mansion house and garden feature in Co. Galway, 1300m SE of Derrygill Forest probably dates to this period. These houses would have been the homes of the lords who owned the plantations and often included large expanses of manicured gardens.
Many of the other site types dating mainly to the Medieval Period such as churches and graveyards would have continued in use into this period.
A number of the sites in this study are on the lands of these large demesnes that date from this period and the subsequent century. In many cases their fine houses are located nearby and are often still lived in. Their gardens were often planted with specimen trees and are responsible for many of the larger trees still found on these sites.
The Modern Period AD 1700 to the Present
This period covers all modern structures and constructions and by far constitutes the majority of the sites encountered during the course of the field work. They include primarily vernacular cottages and field boundaries. All of these are well indicated on the Ordnance Survey maps and indicate that many of the forest sites constitute planted farmland.
1.5 The History of Woodlands
Irish woodlands were sown after the last ice age nearly 10,000 years ago. The native vegetation of Ireland can be gauged by an examination of lake sediments and peat deposits. Peat is good for preserving pollen and due to the nature of the peat horizons, being laid down layer by layer, the horizons allow a chronological analysis of the vegetation. The deepest horizons represent the oldest layers while the layers nearest the surface indicate more recent developments. These peat horizons therefore indicate accurately the types of plants growing on the bog surface and in the nearby countryside when each layer was laid down (Nelson and Walsh 1993, 10-11).
Analysis of pollen indicate that grasses, herbs and willow were prevalent in the Irish landscape 13,000 years ago. Juniper and crowberry around 12,400 years ago. Pollen samples indicate the presence of birch but it is unknown if they represented individual specimens or a forest 12,000 years ago (Nelson and Walsh 1993, 10-11). Valleys had extensive cover of oak, elm, ash and hazel on fertile soils around 7,000 to 5,500 years ago, while on sandy and acidic soils there was mixture of oak, pine and birch. On waterlogged soils supported sally and alder 7,000 to 5,500 years ago. These woodland would have appeared very different to those present today which have been the result of planting during the eighteenth, nineteenth and twentieth centuries. They were probably not dominated by oak but supported a range of species according to the soil type present.
When Mesolithic people arrived in Ireland between 9,000 and 8,000 years ago, they found a climate warmer than today, with fewer peatlands and extensive deciduous woodlands. The density of the forests probably confined humans to coastal regions and stretches along rivers. The hunter-gatherer lifestyle would have had little impact on the landscape. For the next two thousand years forest cover remained relatively unchanged and perhaps reached its maximum during this period.
climate and the arrival of Neolithic farmers (between 6,000-5,000
years ago) initiated forest decline which marked the start of
a period of great change in the Irish landscape. In the 5,500
years since the beginning of the Neolithic period, native forest
cover has declined to less than 1 per cent today (0.2 per cent
represents ancient woodland). An increase in rainfall and lower
temperatures led to the water logging of soils and the spread
of blanket bog. Lowland forests were affected by farming and grazing
by domestic animals. It is assumed that early farmers probably
ringed the bark, killing trees so that crops could be planted
under the leafless canopies. The later introduction of the plough
accelerated the forest decline. Some suggestion indicate that
our treeless landscape dates back to the Bronze Age. Others suggest,
as a result of recurrent forest regeneration, the greater part
of the country was still covered by trees up o the twelfth century,
but greatly reduced. Native scots pine as well as elm were extinct
by the twelfth or thirteenth century whereas hazel expanded, presumably
into areas of cleared woodland abandoned by farmers (Nelson and
Walsh 1993, 10-11).
The poets of the Early Christian period included their love of nature into their poetry. "On of the earliest nature poems describes the exploits of the legendary Suibhne Geilt (Mad Sweeney) who, tradition relates, was King of Dál Riata in the north-east of Ireland during the seventh century. He was reported to go mad during the battle of Mag Rath (c. AD 634) and, transformed into a bird by St. Ronan, left the field of battle and wandered through Ireland for seven years, living in the woods before returning home" (Nelson and Walsh 1993, 4-5). Suibhne's wrote a poem about the woodland as follows:
bushy leafy oaktree
Is highest in the wood,
The forking shooting hazel
Has nests of hazel-nut.
alder is my darling,
All thornless in the gap,
Some milk of human kindness
Coursing in its sap.
blackthorn is a jaggy creel
Stippled with dark sloes,
Green watercress is thatch on wells
Where the drinking blackbird goes.
Rain down big showers when shaken;
Scarlet berries clot like blood
On mountain rowan.
curl in sideways,
Arch a stickle back,
Draw blood, and curl up innocent
To sneak the next attack.
yew tree in each churchyard
Wraps night in its dark hood.
Ivy is a shadowy
Genius in the wood.
rears its windbreak,
A door in winter's face;
Life-blood on a spear-shaft
Darkens the grain of ash.
tree, smooth and blessed,
Delicious to the breeze,
High twigs plait and crown it
The queen of trees.
And whispers, hesitates:
A thousand frightened scuts
Race in its leaves.
But what disturbs me
More than anything
Is an oak rod, always
Testing its thong.
The earliest account of Ireland's trees is in the Zoilomastix of Don Phillip O' Sullivan Beare, written in Spain between 1624 and 1626. He recorded Irish vernacular names and knew about some unusual plants. "He reported that the strawberry tree grew in Ireland, that sweet chestnuts grew in Ulster at 'Claun eth bui' (Clann Aodh Bui) and that there was no shortage of pine in Glenconkeny forest, a famous woodland on the north-western shore of Lough Neagh" (Nelson and Walsh 1993, 6).
A century later Samuel Waring of Armagh wrote the first book published in Ireland about tree propagation. Waring encouraged his fellows to plant "firr trees"-Scots pine, frequently called "fir". The Dublin Society, founded in 1732, took up the role by the mid eighteenth century in encouraging the renewal of woodlands and forests by awarding premiums (grants-in-aid) to landowners who planted trees. This encouraged several landowners to write about their endeavours resulting in five books being published in the last half of the eighteenth century on arboriculture (ibid). Other books were produced throughout the latter half of the eighteenth century and early nineteenth century by George Stevenson Newry in 1767; R. Stevenson in 1783; Samuel Hayes in 1822; Dr. Walter Wade in 1796; Katherine Bailey in 1833 and Henry John Elwes and Augustine Henry in 1906 with further books published throughout the latter half of the twentieth century (Nelson and Walsh 1993, 7-9).
"There is a Gallo-Brittonic word 'nemeton' which is used for a shrine or sanctuary in a sense that implies a sacred grove or clearing in a wood. The word in Latin is 'nemus' meaning 'a wood with a clearing in it' or 'the clearing itself within a grove'. Many 'nemeton' existed in the Celtic world. In the eight century 'forest sanctuaries' which they called 'nimidae' are listed as heathen abominations, and in the eleventh century, a Breton 'wood called Nemet' is recorded. The word and idea came through into Old Irish as 'nemed', a sanctuary, and 'fidnemed', a forest shrine or sacred grove" (Piggott 1968, 63-64).
Irish society was well organised and closely regulated in pre-Christian and Early Christian times. Attitudes to forests and their importance to the people of ancient Ireland can be gleaned from the surviving fragments of laws, especially those contained in the eight century tract Bretha Comaithchesa, the 'Laws of the Neighbourhood'. Under the Brehon Laws trees and shrubs were given protection against wilful damage, and severe penalties could be exacted for damaging the most valuable species. The Brehon Laws essentially held that land (including woodland) was held in common by the people of the tuath (the people/territory ruled by a minor king). The Bretha Comaithchege (Laws or Judgements of neighbourhood) arranges trees in four groups according to their economic importance (Tables 1-3).
oak (dair); hazel (coll); holly (cuillean); yew (ibur); ash (fuinnse, fuinnseann or fuinnseog); pine (ochtach or giuis); apple (aball)
alder (fernn); willow (sail); hawthorn (scieth); rowan (caerthann); birch (buithe); elm (leam) and another (idha) which is not known from its Irish name.
(iii) Scrub trees
blackthorn (daidean or droigean); elder (trom); white hazel (fincoll); aspen (crithach); arbutus (caithne); and two others not known from their Irish names, feorus and crann-fir.
fern (raith); bog-myrtl (rait); furze (aiteand); briar (dris); heath (fraech); ivy (eideand); broom (gilcach); gooseberry (spin).
The status of each tree was determined by its size and produce; the oak was deemed noble due to its size and appearance and its meas or mast of acorns. Substantial fines were specified for damage to trees. The fine (dire) for felling a 'noble tree', "airig fedo" was a 'seoit', two and a half milch cows (1 set = 2 milch cows); for illegally cutting a branch without permission was a yearling heifer (dairt). If a larger limb was cut the fine was a two year old heifer (colpthach).The cost of cutting the tree at the base was a milch-cow (bó). Lesser penalties applied to lesser ranks of trees; for cutting a branch from a 'commoner', 'aithig fedo', the fine was a sheep; the 'dire' for 'fodla fedo', a tree of the 'lower division of the wood'-strawberry tree, for example was a two year old heifer. If you cut a single stem of your neighbours bracken, there was no penalty because it was ranked merely as 'losa fedo' and 'their single stems are not entitled to a penalty'. However if you completely eliminated a neighbour' bracken, heather, bog myrtle or brambles without consent, the compensation due was one 'dairt', a one year-old heifer (Nelson and Walsh 1993, 16).
Woods at this time provided not just timber but a variety of food for man and his animals. Perception also aided their preservation as trees in raths or raheens were not cut without bringing ill-luck. "Misfortunes of families were often traced to the cutting of trees" (Kinahan 1882, 168-9). Every person of the tuath had a equal right to the timber and produce of the wood, varying from 'the night's supply of kindling' and 'the nut gathering of every wood' to 'timber of a carriage for a corpse'. The Hermit's Song was a poem written in the seventh century by a hermit living alone in a woodland. The wood provided shelter: 'A hiding turf, a green barked yew is my roof, /While nearby a great oak keeps me tempest-proof'. It also provided a variety of food: 'I can pick my fruit from an apple like an inn, /Or can fill my fist where hazels shut me in' (Hannigan and Nolan 1994, 56).
The Anglo-Norman invasion had important implications for woodlands in Ireland. They brought with them the idea of private ownership of the land and what stood upon it, a concept alien to Irish law. The Normans tried to introduce the forest laws of England. During the reign of Henry II (1154-1189) the forest laws were still in full force and the passion of the Norman kings for 'the chase' reached its peak. As soon as a firm footing was obtained in Ireland, a royal forest was established. The term royal forest was a loose one which was applied to an area of land, with or without trees, that was subject to forest law. The woods on the east coast were very attractive because of their proximity to Dublin. A large proportion of land outside the Pale came under the operation of forest laws as may be seen by the license granted by Henry II in 1229 to Luke, archbishop of Dublin, for 'the deforestation of certain lands of that state' (Hannigan and Nolan 1994, 56).
While the forests were in Norman hands they were exploited for the English market. The Normans introduced resources and machinery to fell and export timber. Uncharted dense forests were major assets for a lightly armed, highly mobile Irish army. Richard II realised that the greatest threat to the Anglo-Norman colony was the Leinster forest.
In 1399 he employed five thousand people to cut a way through the forest for the royal army on its trek from the Barrow valley (stronghold of Art MacMurrough) to the Wicklow coast. From their woodland refuges, Mac Murrough's men picked off stragglers at the rear of the royal army. The expedition left Richard with a famished and very much reduced army by the time he reached the coast. Two centuries after Richard's invasion, the Wicklow forests, although less extensive, were still harbouring the Leinster clans. Some pollen evidence supports the conjecture that the violence and disruption of the Viking and Norman periods allowed some new woodland to appear on deserted farmland (Hannigan and Nolan 1994, 56).
Little reference is made to Irish woods during the later medieval period until the Tudor conquest in the sixteenth century reinforced the perception of forests as the strongholds of the Irish 'woodkernes' as well as wolves. The woods are described in the State Papers as 'shelter for the ill-disposed' and 'the seat and nursery of rebellion'. Blackwood in county Kildare was apparently a half-way resting place for rustlers and their stolen cattle, as they roamed to and from the glens of Wicklow. A piece written in the time of Elizabeth 1st noted that there were plenty of woods in Ireland except in Leinster, where they have been 'cut down because they harbour the Irish rebels' and now 'they are enforced in those parts, for want off fuel, to burn turves' (Hannigan and Nolan 1994, 56).
By the beginning of the sixteenth century the pale had been so thoroughly cleared of accessible timber that landowners were advised to compel tenants to plant trees, especially oak. Intense exploitation of Irish woods by the New English occurred during the seventeenth century. Large quantities of timber were needed for iron works, pipestaves, ship building and bark for tanning. In 1609 and 1611 the council of lords directed, that 'in view of the great abundance of timber in Ireland, and the great waste thereof for pipe-staves and other minor uses as well as export, no timber in the king's woods may be used for such purposes but should be retained for navy requirements' (Hannigan and Nolan 1994, 56).
Ireland in 1600 was substantially forested but by 1711 it was a net importer of timber. Two centuries of exploitation had ravaged the forests. Timber became scarce in many parts of the country. It was decided in 1720 that timber allowances to tenants should not include even the lop or top of timber felled; a hard restriction when timber was such a vital ingredient in every day life. The harsh restrictions did little to encourage tree preservation or planting among tenants and is probably the root cause of the negative perception of trees which has persisted to recent times (Ibid).
The beginning of the eighteenth century marked the start of a period of great estate plantings for aesthetic, commercial and game management purposes. The impetus for this move may have been the political stability of the period in combination with a growing awareness of declining timber resources. As many as twenty-one parliamentary acts, aimed at preserving trees and encouraging planting were introduced between 1634 and 1785. The parliamentary act of 1698 prescribed the number of trees to be planted in each county (Ibid).
Timber resources in Ireland were apparently adequate to supply a variety of industries in the eighteenth century and well into the first half of the nineteenth century. The planting and management of woodlands were undertaken in many parts of the country. The general availability of turf for fuel may have alleviated tenants' timber requirements. The 1700s and 1800s were also marked by the creation of magnificent gardens. Many new trees species were introduced to the country at this time(Ibid).
Before the end of the seventeenth century Spanish chestnut, Scots pine, stone pine, lime, walnut, hornbeam, plane as well as English and Dutch elm had been introduced. The following century saw the introduction of various pines, silver fir, horse-chestnut, American red oak and Turkey oak. Hayes in 1794 commented on fine mature exotic trees, some of which must have been planted in the preceding century (Ibid).
A significant change occurred in the species composition of the woods in the early eighteenth century. The majority were no longer pure deciduous woods because of the practice of using conifers as a nurse crop for the hardwoods. On the later O.S. maps many of these mixed woods were marked as deciduous woods, presumably because the conifers had been felled. Tree planting commenced again in the last century and continued well into the later half of the nineteenth century. Landowners were now sufficiently secure to begin tree planting, as an economic crop rather than an amenity, on their estates (Hannigan and Nolan 1994, 95).
The passing of the land acts in 1881 resulted in little further planting and large areas were cleared from then onwards. By the beginning of the twentieth century the remaining pure broad leafed woodlands in the country as a whole accounted for only 16 per cent (Oak 9 per cent) of the total tree cover. This consisted mainly of old demesne woods, ornamental plantations and former coppices.
The collapse of the landlord system forced the state to assume responsibility for the production of timber. However, before 1922 only 1,200 acres were planted. A forestry school was established at Avondale, the former house of Samuel Hayes and, later, Charles Parnell. The afforestation of valleys with conifers began after 1920 (Hannigan and Nolan 1994, 98).
The second World War and post-war years took a heavy toll on Ireland's trees. In 1938, Ireland had one per cent forest cover. Hardwoods comprised only 26 per cent of this, while mixed forests accounted for just over 48 per cent. The remainder were softwood plantations. More than half of this cover was felled in the ten years between 1938 and 1947 (Ibid).
The folklore of trees is dying out; where once trees were important for survival providing wood for fires and building construction as well as providing berries for eating and bark for dyeing cloths, today trees are no longer a necessity. All of these uses have fallen out of use due to technological advances and the belief system associated with trees and woodland following them. No longer are trees or "fairy forts" (ringforts) held sacred out of fear of annoying or angering the "wee folk" or the "little people".
Trees were highly valued in the past. Codes of Practice were applied to protect them and to ensure their regeneration from one generation to another. Folklore enshrined some of these codes: The Brehon Laws (see above). Trees were closely connected with the religion of the Celtic peoples, and from Roman times there are written records of groves and individual trees sacred to their Gods.
A venerated single tree known as a 'bile' was part of any sacred place where Celtic kings were inaugurated. Early Irish literature describes five sacred trees in Ireland marking important inaugural sites for tribal kings or landmark/meeting-places of tribes. According to the Rennes Dindsenchas they are no longer in existence (Pennick 1996, 27). One stood for each province; they were the trees of Ross and Mugna, Tortu and Datha, and the branching ash tree of Uisneach, which stood alongside the Stone of Divisions, the navel of the land. "Mugna's tree was an evergreen oak which bore three varieties of fruit: in addition to acorns, it produced apples and nuts, perhaps from grafted branches. Offerings and the remains of ceremonies were hung upon bile trees. Also, some sacred trees were not left in their natural state, but were tended and altered somewhat in the fashion of the later trained lindens of mainland Europe" (Pennick 1996, 28). Lucas describes the "five legendary trees of Ireland; (i) Bile Tortan; (ii) Eo Mugna; (iii) Eo Rossa; (iv) Craib Daithi and (v) Bile Uisnig. 'Craib Daithi' or 'Fanbill W.M.'-'Fin-Bile' meaning 'men of the bile'. 'Bile Uisnig' or 'Uonagh W.M.'" (Lucas 1963, 16-54). Daithi O' hOgain describes the five sacred trees also: "the most celebrated of them was the Bile Tartain at Ardbraccan in Co. Meath, said to have been as ash of gigantic size. Others were the yew of Mughain near Ballaghmoon in Co. Kildare, the yew of Ros at Old Leighlin in Co. Carlow, an ash called 'Daithi's Branch' at Farbill in Co. Westmeath and another ash called 'the Branch of Uisneach' at Ushnagh in the same county. The sites of many of the great trees were taken over by monastic communities, and there are several mentions of such in the lives of the saints. The belief long survived that a very old and notable tree, termed a 'bile', was in some way sacred, and accounts in both literature and folklore tell of misfortune befalling people who interfered with such a 'bile' or cut it down (O' hOgain 1991, 178).
arrival of Christianity ensured that the sacred trees were Christianised.
Very old trees were held in special veneration and many of them
associated with saints (Nelson and Walsh 1993, 14). Concerning
magical properties, the early literature associates the hazel
with seers, but in ordinary folklore, pride of place is accorded
to the rowan. This, called in Irish, 'caorthann' and also known
as 'mountain-ash', was believed to be especially effective. A
piece of rowan was put in the milk-pail and around the churn to
prevent magical milk-stealing, and it was kept in the house in
the belief that it prevented fire (O' hOgain 1991, 178).
The word used in an Irish context to indicate a centre of druidic ritual was 'neimheadh', which had the meaning 'sacred place' and is also the name of a fictional druid of old. These places seem to have often been close to trees, hence the Irish term 'fiodhneimheadh', where 'fiodh' means a tree, and there are many indications that the cult of trees was very strong among druids. The word 'druid' in Old Irish appears to be 'druí', plural 'druid'. Its derivation is thought to stem from the Greek word for 'oak-tree' known as 'drus' (Piggott 1968, 100). Other derivations for the word stem from a druid being synomyous with an 'oak-scientist' or in Irish 'dair' meaning 'oak'. The favourite tree of the druids was the rowan and it was on wattles of this tree that the Irish practitioners slept in order to have prophetic visions. The hazel tree was also important, as evidenced by the druidic name Mac Cuill ('son of hazel') and also by the lore concerning 'nine hazel trees at the source of the river Boyne, the nuts of which had a nucleus of wisdom' (O' hOgain 1991, 169).
"There is a poem about a yew tree of Ross, "Druim Suithe", a medieval Irish poem which reveals the symbolism and importance of the tree to the Celtic people. It is full of allusions and kennings, describing the famed oracular tree of Leinster, the word-pure man" (Pennick 1996, 28). Celtic custom held that when a notable tree died, a new one should be planted in its place, preferably from a cutting from the old one, or from a seedling of its fruit, to ensure continuity over thousands of years. The oak tree was a symbol of stability and living continuity in Celtic custom as well as the Celtic battle-standard (Pennick 1996, 28). The Celtic bardic tradition is interwoven with trees. The Irish bardic alphabet, ogham script, is linked expressly with them. "Each character has a corresponding tree, for example: B for birch; D for oak; S for willow etc. Each tree was seen as an embodiment of the quality expressed by the ogham character" (Pennick 1996, 30).
According to Irish lore, a single thorn growing in the middle of a stony field or on a hillside is protected or inhabited by the fairies. It was considered very sacred where it grows close to a large boulder or over a holy well. Thorn trees growing on a bank forming an L or V-shape were considered special places. Classes of supernatural beings were considered present in certain trees (Pennick 1996, 32).
Some trees were honoured as special trees by tying wool, string, ribbons or rags to it. Usually, this was done by those seeking a cure at a holy well. Often the belief was held that the offering had to be tied to the tree with raw wool, a material which was thought to absorb harmful and polluting substances. Sometimes the ribbons or rags were nailed to trees. The practice of hanging relics and remains of sacrifices in trees, originally Pagan, appears to have been continued by the Celtic Christians. Several Lives of Celtic saints recount incidents where objects were hung in trees used by the saints as stopping-places. "While travelling, Celtic priests spent the night in or under trees, hanging their valuables in the branches. This had both a practical and symbolic purpose. The tree would protect the traveller physically, whilst its spirit would be honoured by the presence of sacred objects. St. Senan actually died beneath a thorn tree at Kileochaille near Rossbay" (Pennick 1996, 33).
126.96.36.199 The desk study based on the SMR and in combination with associated field surveys cannot be considered a comprehensive record of the archaeology present. It is therefore highly probable that further sites, features and items of archaeological consequence will be identified during the course of pre-planting and clear felling procedures.
188.8.131.52 Recent European Union directives related to forestry and afforestation have highlighted the lack of forested land in Ireland. While over 8% of Ireland's land is currently forested, it is still the least forested of all European Union countries (The Heritage Council 1999, 8). This is a marked improvement over a figure of approximately 1% forested land at the turn of the 20th century. However, the Forestry Service's strategic plan on afforestation has set a target of 17% forested land (1.189 million hectares) by the year 2030. To achieve this goal, Cóillte and the Forestry Service have begun a planting program that will see upwards of 20000 hectares planted per year (Johnson 1998, 43).
184.108.40.206 Forestry and its component parts of ground preparation, planting and clearfelling are inherently destructive processes and all can have a marked effect on both known and unknown archaeological sites. With the massive scope of planting proposed for Ireland over the next thirty years, forestry will constitute by far the single largest impact on Ireland's landscape and consequently, its archaeological heritage.
220.127.116.11 While the 344 hectares to be clearfelled/planted as part of the Millennium Forest Project's program of works constitutes only a tiny portion of the 20,000 hectares that will be affected by forestry, strict guidelines concerning the identification and preservation of both known and potential archaeological sites should be applied to all forestry projects, large and small.
18.104.22.168 Recent publications by the Heritage Council (Johnson 1998 and Heritage Council 1999) in addition to specific guidelines set forth by the Forestry Service, Forestry and Archaeology Guidelines (2000) have targeted both private and public forestry and its effects on archaeology and other aspects of Ireland's heritage. The referral system developed in co-operation between Dúchas-The Heritage Service (Ireland's governing body for archaeology) and the Forestry Service for the protection of archaeological sites to be affected by grant-aided forestry on private land constitutes a crucial first step in the preservation of archaeological sites threatened by forestry.
The referral system is based upon the RMP, the Record of Monuments
and Places. These are a series of Ordinance Survey 6" maps
with all known archaeological sites clearly indicated. To be able
to plant in the area adjacent a recorded archaeological site,
certain restrictions must be adhered to in order to comply with
the requirements for the various grant schemes.
22.214.171.124 A similar agreement has been reached directly between Dúchas and Cóillte in relation to the preservation of existing archaeological sites in forested areas. This includes primarily the maintenance of designated and clearly marked exclusion zones around recorded archaeological sites and restrictions to the felling process in and around these sites. However, both the referral system and Cóillte's current initiatives aimed at preserving archaeology is limited primarily to previously known recorded sites as indicated on the RMP. The RMP represents only a fraction of the potential archaeology resting invisibly beneath the surface. Also, particularly in relation to the older, more overgrown forests, such as a number of those included in this study, means that sites that would otherwise have been highly visible and identifiable may lay completely hidden.
1.7.2 Mitigation for Forestry and the Protection of Known Archaeological Sites
126.96.36.199 What follows are a series of recommendations intended to aid in the identification, recording and preservation of both known archaeological sites and potential archaeology in relation to the processes of forestry in Ireland. They are based primarily on our experiences with the sites involved in the Millennium Forest Project but could be extended to include all forestry.
Most of the following recommendations are based upon the Forestry Services' Forestry and Archaeology Guidelines (2000)
* Exclusion zones 15m in width should be established around all known archaeological sites and monuments. To insure the efficacy of this exclusion zone, the full extent of these sites must be properly identified.
* The exclusion zone should be demarcated by a highly visible wire fence before any work takes place in the vicinity of the site. The areas inside the fence should be left bare and not compromised by access roads or the storage of materials.
* Tree felling in the vicinity should be conducted in such a way so as to insure that neither the archaeological site nor its exclusion zone is in any way compromised.
* Access through the surrounding forest to any archaeological sites should be maintained to facilitate any further research.
* The felling of trees on, or within 15m of any archaeology sites should be done by hand. Particular care in regards to upstanding monuments that could be damaged by falling trees should be practised.
* It is further suggested that any ground preparation works involving excavation such as the excavation of furrows or drainage ditches, outside the 15m exclusion zone yet still within the area of interest surrounding any sites as determined by Dúchas-The Heritage Service, should conform to the same rules as any other type of development. This can include a predevelopment archaeological impact assessment, pre-development testing and/or the monitoring of all ground works by a qualified archaeologist. Likewise, such steps
should be considered when little or no ground work is required but trees are to be planted within the area of interest surrounding an archaeological site where planting has not taken place previously. This is because tree roots can penetrate deep into subsurface archaeological deposits and features and have a devastating effect on their preservation.
1.7.3 Mitigation for Forestry and the Protection of Potential Archaeological Sites
188.8.131.52 As the RMP which forms the basis for the protection of archaeological sites is based solely upon visible, recorded sites, it does not offer protection for the abundance of potential archaeology to be found beneath the ground surface and which has little or no surface expression. The identification and preservation of this potential archaeology has yet to be seriously addressed in relation to forestry. With the proposed scale of afforestation in the coming decades, thousands of potential archaeological sites are in danger of being damaged or destroyed.
184.108.40.206 The scale of the building boom currently underway in Ireland pales in comparison to the massive scale of development involved in the Forestry Service's strategic plan for forestry in Ireland. The potential archaeological impacts of building and infrastructural based development in Ireland are currently well addressed by the planning process and is regulated by Dúchas-The Heritage Service. It is proposed that the same rules and regulations in relation to archaeology that apply to other developments be applied to forestry, both private and public.
220.127.116.11 Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA's) should be conducted in the pre-development stages for all proposed forestry works. This should involve detailed field walking as well as cartographic and archival research. These assessments constitute the best mechanism for identifying potential archaeological sites prior to the commencement of forestry development. Currently, forestry projects over 70 hectares in size must undertake such an assessment compared to other forms of development where most projects over 1 hectare in size have at least minimal archaeological conditions. The primary role of these assessments is to identify potential archaeological sites.
18.104.22.168 As discovered through this project, the field survey of forest sites as part of an overall archaeological investigation can be fraught with difficulties. In forested areas to be clearfelled, field survey work should be completed before clearfelling begins due to the process's negative effects on both accessibility and visibility. However, stands of closely planted immature trees, both coniferous and deciduous, should be removed prior to field walking as accessibility and visibility are severely reduced and often obstructed in such an environment.
22.214.171.124 It is suggested that further archaeological conditions such as the monitoring of ground disturbances and archaeological test trenching be used in areas of greater archaeological potential and within the areas of interest around known archaeological sites both within the areas to be developed as well as those on adjoining land. In areas with a high density of archaeological sites or potential sites, all ground disturbance works should be monitored by a qualified archaeologist.
126.96.36.199 For situations where ground disturbances are to occur without any form of archaeological investigation or monitoring, the workers themselves should be educated on the identification of archaeological deposits, sites and artefacts. Cóillte currently runs lectures and seminars on archaeological topics for its employees but this should be made mandatory. Such considerations should also be applied to the use of outside contractors who work on Coillte sites.
188.8.131.52 Other landscape features such as industrial buildings, lime kilns, vernacular buildings and other forms of old structures should also be preserved and in some cases restored. While strict exclusion zones need not be adhered to, planting should not occur within or in close proximity to any upstanding structures. Likewise tree felling should be conducted with care in the immediate vicinity. While these types of structures cannot be strictly considered archaeological, their preservation should be insured as they constitute important historical sites and the future's archaeological sites. Many buildings such as old cottages can be simply restored in a sympathetic manner and used for storage, amenities, rest areas and as focal attractions for forest visitors.
184.108.40.206 The growing scale of forestry in Ireland poses a massive threat to both the existing and potential archaeological record. Archaeology is a valuable, non-renewable resource and should be protected at all costs. With proper planning and education, forestry need not have a negative impact on Ireland's archaeological heritage. In fact, forestry can have a positive effect. If a site is properly identified and fenced, it is much safer in a forest than in an area that could become the target of more intrusive development. Likewise, the many potential archaeological sites hidden in Ireland's few older forests are well protected in their leafy shrouds.
With the successful completion of the Millennium Forests Project, future generations might once again be able to say:
"When this country was so thick with woods that a very light person might walk on the tops of trees from Kilmeashil to Lady's Island" (Kennedy 1866, 304).
Shirley Markley and Christopher Read, October 25th 2000
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Other Sources and Archives
Department of Irish Folklore, UCD
Trinity Map Library, TCD
Dúchas-The Heritage Service
National Museum of Ireland
Royal Society of Antiquaries
Archaeological and Historical Societies for each county
Census of Ireland 1851
*Please note that it was not possible to reproduce figures for inclusion on the website version of the reports.
*Please note that it was not possible to reproduce figures for inclusion on the website version of the reports.