Archaeology

Archaeology in the Dublin Mountains

 

The Dublin Mountains was a hugely important landscape during our prehistoric past. This can be seen in the number and variety of prehistoric monuments that stand proudly on the summits of the hills and mountains, or that quietly lie in the wooded glades of the valleys.

The Neolithic (c.4200–2400 BC) is one the most significant periods for the Dublin Mountains in terms of the representation of archaeological monuments. The Neolithic period was the time of the first farmers in Ireland, when the large forests began to be cut back with stone axes to create fields for livestock and tillage.

 

 

Archaeologists have long identified a major cluster of megalithic tombs in the Dublin and Wicklow Mountains. These uplands were clearly a place of real importance and appear to have been a landscape of spiritual meaning based on the number of funerary monuments that can be found on the summits and slopes of the mountains and hills, as well as the valleys and low-lying land. These funerary monuments give evidence of the changing nature of society and settlement. They may be seen as a form of expression of not just religious belief, but community strength, cohesion and territorial ownership.

 

 

Ireland is renowned for its megalithic tombs. The term ‘megalithic’ literally means ‘large stone’, and it refers to large stone monuments that typically date to the Neolithic period. The tombs are generally categorised into four main groupings; court tombs (numbering approximately 394 nationally), portal tombs (numbering around 174 nationally), passage tombs (numbering around 230 nationally) and wedge tombs (numbering 505 nationally), though a number of other monuments do not neatly fit into any of the groups and thus fall into the ‘unclassified’ category (approximately numbering 200 nationally).

 

 

With the exception of court tombs (of which there are no known examples in County Dublin), the other three categories are all very well represented within the Dublin Mountains and Uplands. The different types of megalithic tomb tend to be positioned in different parts of the landscape, the topographic choices made by the tomb builders may reflect the purpose of the tomb, the nature of territorial boundaries, or other cultural factors that are not immediately apparent to us today.

 

 

With such an array of ancient monuments, it is no wonder that the valleys, hills and mountains of Dublin have become so imbued with stories of legends and folk tales. These stories range from ancient tales of heroic deeds of Fionn MacCumhaill and his warriors, to the debauchery of the Hellfire Club in the eighteenth century. As you will discover, few mountain ranges in Ireland can compete with the Dublin Mountains for the wealth of archaeology, history and folklore.

 

Text & Images Abarta Heritage

[posted 19.12.19]

Archaeology Sites in the Dublin Mountains

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