Situating Castles on a Colonial Frontier: Landscape Archaeology in Ireland
My dissertation research investigates themes of the physical and psychological impact of colonialism through an examination of the siting of timber castle fortifications—motte and bailey castles—in north County Tipperary Ireland. A physical, cultural, and economic 'hybrid' region, north County Tipperary is an ideal location for a landscape archaeology study of colonial ventures into Ireland. My main advisors are Dr. Peter S. Wells of the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities and Dr. Kieran O'Conor of the National University Ireland - Galway.
Scholars interested in castle studies have debated the site of monuments as ‘defensive’ or ‘display’ – the defensive camp largely examines castles themselves (wall thickness, arrow loops, ditches, banks) with little attention to the non-dramatic geographic location (notwithstanding high elevation or promontory locations).
This study therefore uses a landscape perspective of local variance in castle siting to explain how landscape features played a role in defensive mechanisms. The theoretical aspect of this work incorporates landscape archaeology, colonial studies, and historical archaeology into the work of castle studies, including views on defense, architecture, and display. Methodologically, archaeological surveying is incorporated into modern datasets (elevation, soils, geology) with Geographic Information Science (GIS) software to model the environment of colonial Anglo-Norman Ireland. Innovative GIS modeling examines the use or location of ‘wet’ spaces near and around castles asking: were ‘wet’ spaces utilized as defensive locations for the siting of castles?
The second portion of the model utilizes available data of contemporaneous archaeological sites—such as hillforts, ecclesiastical sites, ringforts, cemeteries, towns, and walls—to view the particular siting of castles in the study area. Mapping is therefore twofold: to model potential defensive locations and to view the location of siting within an existing space. The Anglo-Norman colonizers did not come into a vacant space; what were the decision making processes to choose specific places for castles? Theoretically colonial studies will inform the discussion of the results from the models and siting examination.
Ceathrú an Mhóta -- Moatquarter motte.
Classified by Leask in 1936 as a motte castle, the dome shaped "Christmas pudding" style motte is representative of colonial power in castle siting. Located at the site of a possible medieval crossroads (O'Brien 2001), seven contemporaneous archaeological monuments are found within a mile of the motte, including two enclosures, four ringforts, a moated site, and a ringwork castle (Farrelly and O'Brien 2002). The site has also been classified as an old inauguration site of the kings of Éile by Gwynn and Gleeson (1962) and discussed in these contrasting site types by FitzPatrick (2004).