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A Survey of Monuments of Archaeological and Historical Interest in the Barony of Bunratty Lower, Co. Clare by William Gerrard Ryan

Part 1: Commentary: Prehistoric and early Christian sites: Crannógs

An examination of the relevant 6” and 25” O.S. Sheets that cover the Barony of Bunratty Lower will not yield one recorded site of a crannog. However a number are now (1979) known from the area, having been noted during fieldwork.

Ballymulcashel, Site catalogue 1.257-9
Knocknalappa, Site catalogue 1.484-7
Caherkine, Site catalogue 1.636-7
Muckanagh-Vandeleur, Site catalogue 1.734-5

Other sites of crannogs are likely to have existed in the lakes of the Barony, particularly Fenloe and Rosroe Loughs. Some of the small vegetation covered islands may, on closer examination, be found to be crannogs.

Reclamation and drainage schemes, in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, have lowered the levels of the larger lakes. Thus crannogs formerly near the lake shore may now be above the water level and with the growth of vegetation it may be difficult to identify them.

This feature may be defined as follows:-
“ The Irish crannog is an artificially constructed island on which the house or houses of the crannog-dwellers were built…” O’Riordain, 1979, 89.

The local crannog at Knocknalappa has been excavated (J. Raftery, 1942) and this has produced interesting information relating to construction techniques, defences and date (Bronze Age transition, c. 500-300 B.C.)

However from other excavated Irish examples even earlier dates are available. An excavated site at Rathjordan, Co. Limerick, is said to have yielded beaker pottery suggesting that the crannog cannot be later than the early Bronze Age (O’Riordain, 1975, 95). A number of other sites also yielded evidence of a Bronze Age date, e.g. Lough Eskragh, Co. Tyrone and Monalty, Co. Monaghan, with the result that “the construction and occupation of crannog sites during the Bronze Age is thus clearly demonstrated” (B. Raftery, 1976, 192). The site at Rathtinaun, Co. Sligo, yielded dating evidence similar to Knocknalappa, i.e. Bronze Age – Iron Age transition, (B. Raftery, 1976, 191).

While a number of sites have been dated to the early Christian period, e.g. Ballinderry No.1, Co. Westmeath; Ballinderry, No. 2, Co. Offaly and Lagore, Co. Meath, there are – as yet – no crannogs that can definitely be said to have been constructed by the intervening people of La Tene aspect. One such site may have existed at Lisnacrogher, Co. Antrim, but this was destroyed before a proper excavation could be undertaken – (O’Riordain, 1979, 95). Therefore “if an element of continuity is to be seen in crannog construction from late Bronze Age into historic times that sequence does not appear to include, in the present light of knowledge, a definite La Tene cultural phase” (B. Raftery, 1979, 192). Excavations in the future may, however, change this.

Medieval occupation of crannogs, and possibly even construction, is shown by the thirteenth century finds at Lough Faughan, Co. Down, while the site at Lough Islandreevy, also in Co. Down, yielded material dating from the twelfth to the sixteenth centuries (O’Riordain, 1979, 94).