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I am currently reading the report of the 1934 excavations of the cashel (published in the 50s in a beautifully bound book) and I think that the cull should start right about here.

The site was dated to around the 9th century - so it needs to go, as do the other cashels and duns and stone forts. Before it does though ....

One of the things that have surprised me from the report is that 9,233 lbs of cattle bone were found. For a site that was only used for a couple of generations by 40-50 people (or so the report says - another surprise from the report) that's a lot of beef!

This must indicate one of two things (I think). Firstly the inhabitants of the fort were supplying beef on a large scale to the locals or, secondly, that the fort was actually a feast site.

The last one sounds strange for a Christian site (Xtian period that is - we don't know if the builders were practicing or not), but many of the cashel, and there are over 3000 in CLare, have associations with games. Not written record, but folklore that says the Gentry play games in them. A few have names like <i>The Fairies Hurling Ground</i> and such like.

The amount of cashels for a supposedly small populace has always been attributed to the poor soil quality in the area; that most of the cashels were probably only used for a few generations, the land became wasted and then the owners moved on to new ground. This is a perfectly reasonable theory.

However, it doesn't take into account that many cashels (and I've mentioned this before) are overlooked by higher ground. They aren't particularly defendable. Perhaps some of the larger ones were built for one-off events or for annual events. A human burial in a central souterrain might back this up: perhaps this was an offering. I havent got to the part of the report that deals with this burial yet, so I'm only letting my mind run here.

Many of the cashels are clearly defensive and well situated for the purpose, but if the people had the freedom to <i>up sticks</i> and move to new ground every few generations then why the need to build them in places that can be easily attacked? Some of these less secure sites appear, from their construction, to be the older ones.

Just maybe the early ones were not for defense, but for a ritual purpose similar to henges. Clare has very little soil and so building an earthen bank would not be possible.

Sadly, so many have been trashed that it will be impossible to ever know for sure, but it's interesting to speculate. The location of this site is VERY defensive, being built on the edge of a plateau overlooking a ravine, so perhaps the outer walls didn't need to be that strong.

Another odd thing is the amount of hearths on the site. A small cattle rearing community would surely cook communally, especially in such a limited space. It's easier to kill a cow and spit roast the whole thing than carve it up and cook bits of it. I would imagine that one blazing fire is more efficient than lots of little fires to cook on, and in a land with very poor soil wood would be at a premium.

Something about this site just doesn't seem to add up.

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Posted by FourWinds
15th July 2004ce

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