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An analysis of early Iron Age socio-economic organization in the Rathcroghan hinterland of Connacht, Ireland

Southard-Wray, Maighread E. (2024) An analysis of early Iron Age socio-economic organization in the Rathcroghan hinterland of Connacht, Ireland. Undergraduate Thesis, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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The Irish Iron Age (c. 700 BCE – AD 400) is a period of late prehistory which continues to remain shrouded in darkness. The enigma of this period is largely due to the ephemerality of the material record of settlement and daily lifeways, a scarcity that is highlighted when compared to the sedentary, agricultural Bronze Age. It has been suggested that this ephemerality of the Iron Age represents a shift in subsistence economy to a multi-resource pastoralist economy that incorporated small-scale localized agriculture, hunter-gatherer foraging, and mixed-species herd management. In the absence of known domestic sites, the Irish Iron Age has become known by the large-scale sites of ceremony, economic, and political organization, known as ‘royal sites’, a name which derives from medieval interpretations. These royal sites are tied to local landscapes and depend on this connection for the maintenance of their legitimacy. By interpreting the royal sites as fixed points of organization (anchors) within multi-sited pastoral landscapes, the nature of socio-economic organization may be revealed.
This thesis models paths of movement in the Rathcroghan hinterland through the use of GIS analysis to assess potential routes of mobility throughout the landscape, in relation to waterways, peatland environments, and dry land. I use a multi-scalar approach to assess movement and mobility at a local scale (radius=25km) and a regional scale (radius=50km). These models of potential pathways of movement are compared to archaeological datapoints accessed through the National Monuments Service of Ireland to reveal the social factors of pastoral mobility. Through the analysis conducted, Rathcroghan is considered in the context of its broader social context of the pastoral Iron Age. The results of this analysis indicate that in dry land environments pastoralist communities may have been utilizing energy-efficient routes of movement. However, in bogland contexts and at river fords, the social value of landscape features becomes clear as local knowledge would have overridden efficiency of movement.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
Southard-Wray, Maighread E.MES402@pitt.eduMES402
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairHanks, Bryan K.bkh5@pitt.edubkh5
Committee CoChairArkush, Elizabeth N.arkush@pitt.eduarkush
Committee MemberBermann, Marcbermarc@pitt.edubermarc
Committee MemberPitman,
Date: 23 April 2024
Date Type: Publication
Defense Date: 28 March 2024
Approval Date: 23 April 2024
Submission Date: 18 April 2024
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Number of Pages: 106
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: David C. Frederick Honors College
Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Anthropology
Degree: BPhil - Bachelor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Undergraduate Thesis
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: Iron Age; Ireland; Royal sites; GIS; Landscapes; Pastoralism
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2024 15:12
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2024 15:12


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