Tuesday 21 August 2007

Archaeologists uncover county’s ‘first capital’

ARCHAEOLOGISTS believe they have discovered what may have been Cork’s ancient capital, built 3,200 years ago at a time when Rameses III was pharaoh of Egypt.

A team of archaeologists from UCC, led by Professor William O’Brien, have carried out extensive research that sheds new light on what is the largest prehistoric monument in Co Cork and the oldest dated ringfort in the country.

Their three-year project, funded by the Irish Research Council for Humanities and Social Sciences and the Royal Irish Academy, shows that huge wooden defence walls once surrounded the ringfort at Knockavilla, near Innishannon.

Radiocarbon dating shows that the ringfort was constructed about 1200BC confirming it as the oldest known prehistoric ringfort in Ireland, according to Prof O’Brien. This puts its importance on a par with prehistoric sites such as Dún Aengus on Inishmore and Mooghaun, Co Clare.

Archaeologists have concluded that several thousand timber posts surrounded the ancient structure, known as the “cathair”, which enclosed nearly 20 acres — enough space for today’s developers to construct about 300 houses.

It would have taken hundreds, if not thousands, of people to construct it and may have been built in a matter of months.

“The antiquity and immense size of this monument suggests that it was one of the most important prehistoric settlements in the south-west region, and arguably Cork’s first capital,” said Prof O’Brien.

The outer defence walls had a perimeter of more than one kilometre and were built with wattle fencing. These were erected behind a dug-out ditch defence.

The inner timber defence, built entirely of solid oak, was 800m at its perimeter.

Archaeologists discovered evidence that part of the inner palisade fence had been burnt, which Prof O’Brien and his team believe “was a deliberate act of war”.

The people who built the ringfort may have been slaughtered.

At any rate their kingdom seems to have disintegrated as no efforts were made to repair the fort and it was never inhabited again.

Irish Examiner

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