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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 2: Chapter 14: Kilmurry Parish: Knocknalappa Townland

6” O.S. Sheet number : 42 (Co. Clare)
Reference : 4.9 cm South; 5.5 cm East
Height : c. 96’ O.D.
Shape : refer to comments below

Description of site:
I do not propose to deal with this site in any great detail as a full excavation report is available on it (see Raftery, 1942, pp. 53 – 72). I will, however, summarise the report and give some 1979 information on the site.

The excavation of what became known as Knocknalappa Crannog took place in 1937 after local people discovered bronze implements in the vicinity. (Wallace, 1936-1939, p. 38, p. 83). The excavation was entrusted to Dr. Joseph Raftery, National Museum of Ireland.

The crannog took the form of a slight oval shaped projection into Rosroe lake, below (i.e. west of) Knocknalappa Hill. Excavation showed that originally this projection was in fact an artificial island, separated from the mainland by a narrow channel. The crannog builders chose this site as there was a natural rise in the marl bottom of the lake and also it was quite close to the shore. Having decided on the location the habitation area was then marked out by an oval shaped construction of hazel piles and strengthened by a loose heaping of stones placed between and around the piles. This defined the area of the crannog. Large quantities of peat were laid down within this oval area, on top of which were some twigs and branches as a foundation to a sloping wooden platform of nine pieces of timber, on average 1.80 metres in length. There was, surprisingly, no evidence of habitation at this level. On top of the platform was more artificially laid down peat. On this peat surface were some small angular stones and broken animal bones. On top of the peat, in turn, was a layer of marl – again laid down artificially. This was the top layer of the site.

Few finds were uncovered during this excavation. What was found came from the layer of small stones and animal bones. Apart from the pottery, bronze rings, a bronze sunflower pin, amber beads and a bone knife were uncovered. At the time, 1930’s, special interest was shown in the pottery finds as they were the first recorded finding of domestic pottery in a bronze age context in Ireland. (See O’Raftery, 1942, Fig. 1, page 68).

No trace of habitation existed on the topmost marl. There was no trace of hearth sites, postholes, foundations for walls of huts etc. This made Raftery suggest that the crannog was built for refuge in times of danger but it was never used, for an extended period at any rate.

Based on the finds the date of its construction was said to be in the transition period from Bronze Age to Iron Age in Ireland, between 500 – 300 B.C.
Again I state, for a more comprehensive treatment of this excavated site refer to the 1942 excavation report. Apart from written information on the site this report contains drawings of finds as well as a number of photographs.

Traces of the crannog are still (1979) quite clearly visible on the eastern shore of Rosroe Lake:-

Knocknalappa C: Photo taken towards Crannog, from the north-east
Knocknalappa C: Photo taken towards Crannog, from the north-east

A brief reference (1936) to the find of bronze implements in Knocknalappa Townland, on the site of what excavation later (1937) showed to be the site of a crannog, states: “…Other sites of crannoga may be observed round the lakes…” (Wallace, 1936-‘39, page 38).

It is possible that the small oval shaped island a short distance west of Knocknalappa crannog may itself also be a crannog. Certainly being further offshore than the excavated site it would have been more difficult to attack and perhaps therefore a more suitable place of refuge.