Sunday 25 February 2018

Village lets you walk in footsteps of Normans

Archaeologists view bone fragments found at a dig in Newtown Jerpoint
Archaeologists view bone fragments found at a dig in Newtown Jerpoint
An artist's impression of the town in the 12th century

Eimear Ni Bhraonain

THE pub trade once bustled in this medieval Irish town before it was eventually abandoned after an economic meltdown. Archaeologists have found new clues about life in the early-Norman settlement in Co Kilkenny.

Newtown Jerpoint, near Thomastown, is today one of the best surviving examples of an abandoned medieval town. Light-detection and ranging technology -- used by armies throughout the world to detect underground bunkers -- found the 'lost town' dating from the 13th Century.

The Irish Heritage Council (IHC) has long known of its historical importance of the site but the latest dig by archaeologists has given an insight into life in the Norman settlement.

Newtown Jerpoint was once home to up to 500 people at a time when the population of Ireland was only around 200,000. Archaeologists discovered that the settlement had many things in common with Kilkenny city today -- as there were 14 taverns in the town, despite its small population.

Archaeologist Coilin O Drisceoil, who has been researching the settlement, said: "There are a few examples of these deserted towns but this one is unique because it's open to the public."

He said the town was probably abandoned because it went from "boom to bust".

"It's similar to the demise of the Celtic Tiger in many ways. You had this boom for 400 years with trade and property but because of disastrous economic planning by King Henry VIII, it was turned into a ghost town."

He added that Newtown Jerpoint was being referred to as "Kilkenny's Pompeii" because even though it has been abandoned, "you can still walk the streets and see how they went about their daily lives".

The IHC said Newtown Jerpoint was of "exceptional significance in Ireland as a whole".

Irish Independent

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