Sunday 24 February 2019

New book unearths details of life in early north Cork

Bill Browne

Every place has a story to tell but unfortunately, with the passage of time, not all of these stories are preserved for future generations.

That has been the driving force and ethos behind a fascinating new book set to be published in the New Year detailing the exciting archaeological  gems unearthed over the course of one of the largest civil engineering projects ever undertaken in north Cork. 

'Hidden Voices -The Archaeology of the M8 Fermoy-Mitchelstown Motorway', documents the major programme of investigations at 24 separate sites along the route through the experiences of two archaeologists that worked on the scheme. 

Jacinta Kiely, a founder member of consultants Eachta Archaeological Projects, has experience of working on a number of national road projects around the country. 

Dr Penny Johnson, who like Ms Kiely is a UCC graduate, worked on the north Cork  project while a post-excavation manager at Eachta Archaeological Projects. 

Together they have produced a book that, according to its publisher Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII), 'affords a rare chance to hear from the people whose voices would be lost, were it not for the opportunities for discovery afforded by the construction of the route'.

A wide and diverse range of sites were discovered and documented during the project, which traverses the board plains of prime pasture-lands and the western foothills of the Kilworth Mountains.

"These represented the day-to-day life, work and beliefs of the communities that occupied this landscape over the  last 10,000 years," said Dr Johnson.

Readers will learn about of Mesolithic nomads fishing the River Funshion and of Neolithic farmsteads excavated at Gortore, Caherdrinny and Ballinglanna North. Bronze Age houses were also found at Ballynamona, Gortnahown and Kilshanny, and a rare Iron Age example at Caherdrinny. The excavations also revealed how precarious life could be in pre-historic times, with burials at Ballynacarriga of Early Bronze Age women and children - including a young woman and her unborn child. 

Timber circles uncovered at Ballynacarriga provide evidence of ceremonial practices in later Neolithic times. 

An early medieval cliff-edge fort at Ballynacarriga and cob-built houses and a blacksmith's dwelling at Gortnahown, where iron-working evidence indicates highly specialised bell manufacture and brazing, move the story into the historical era. 

"The early 12th-century manuscript known as 'Críchad an Chaoilli' provides a backdrop to these medieval sites, with its evidence for territorial boundary evolution and land ownership in the old kingdom of Fir Maige (Fermoy)," said Ms Kiely. 

The archaeological excavation accounts are augmented in the book by overviews of the settlements, plant  and human remains and pottery, stone tool and iron-working evidence. 'Hidden Voices -The Archaeology of the M8 Fermoy-Mitchelstown Motorway' will be available to buy from January 31 at priced at €25.