Saturday, July 16, 2005

An archeological diversion


The photo is from the ridge above Lough Adoon (Lake of the Fort) on Ireland's Dingle Peninsula. The island you see in the lake was apparently a place of refuge in Iron Age times, about 2000 years ago. Where the island is separated from the shore by shallow water, it is defended by a dry stone rampart about 2 meters high with a single gate.

We have just climbed the corrie headwall above the lake, alongside gushing waterfalls, and are entering Coumanare (the Hollow of the Slaughter), supposed site of an ancient battle between the champions of Ulster and Munster. There is hardly a square meter of this peninsula that does not have archeological associations; there are more sites of archeological interest here -- Bronze Age, Iron Age, Early Christian -- than in any other place in Europe.

On a ridge above Coumanare the blanket bog is eroding away to reveal what are called "Coumanare arrows," sharpened sticks by the hundreds, about a foot long, believed by local people to have been used in the mythical battle, but more likely dating from even earlier Bronze Age times and used for laming deer. We have occasionally found the "arrows" in situ standing vertically in tight cluster