The Social and Technological Context of Iron Production in Iron Age and Early Medieval Ireland c. 600 BC – AD 900

Title: The Social and Technological Context of Iron Production in Iron Age and Early Medieval Ireland c. 600 BC – AD 900
Authors: Dolan, Brian
Advisor: O'Sullivan, Aidan
Lewis, Helen
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Date: Apr-2012
Abstract: This thesis investigates the technology of iron production in Iron Age and early medieval Ireland and, through two case studies, situates iron production in its social context. Archaeological evidence from 202 sites, many recently excavated and unpublished is analysed, allowing the characterisation of the archaeology of Irish smelting and smithing sites, including features such as furnaces and smithing hearths as well as associated finds and structures. An Iron Age case study focuses on an iron producing region in the Irish midlands. This area has produced a significant number of dispersed, isolated and small-scale smelting sites from the period, as well as a very small number of smithing sites associated with ritually significant hilltop sites. It is argued that smith/smelters in the Iron Age of the region played a significant role in what was probably a mobile, pastoral society. They had a dual role as both craft- workers and ritual specialists, smelting iron in isolation before creating desirable objects at places of communal ritual and ceremony. A second case study focuses on the idea of the ironworker as a specialist in early medieval society. It is argued that the role of ironworkers changed significantly at the beginning of the period with the arrival of Christianity and the appropriation of iron technology by the Church, which organised the first large-scale specialist smithing in the country. As the period progressed smithing became a more common activity, carried out by a spectrum of workers including high-status secular smiths working on a very large-scale.
Funding Details: Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Sciences
Type of material: Doctoral Thesis
Publisher: University College Dublin. School of Archaeology
Qualification Name: Ph.D.
Copyright (published version): 2012 the author
Keywords: MedievalIron AgeIronworkingArchaeologyIreland
Language: en
Status of Item: Peer reviewed
Appears in Collections:Archaeology Theses

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