The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland is a ground-breaking and unique study of the enigmatic, unseen and dark silent world of caves. People have engaged with caves for the duration of human occupation of the island, spanning 10,000 years. In prehistory, subterranean landscapes were associated with the dead and the spirit world, with evidence for burials, funerary rituals and votive deposition. The advent of Christianity saw the adaptation of caves as homes and places of storage, yet they also continued to feature in religious practice. Medieval mythology and modern folklore indicate that caves were considered places of the supernatural, being particularly associated with otherworldly women. Through a combination of archaeology, mythology and popular religion, this book takes the reader on a fascinating journey that sheds new light on a hitherto neglected area of research. It encourages us to consider what underground activities might reveal about the lives lived aboveground, and leaves us in no doubt as to the cultural significance of caves in the past.
Winner of the Current Archaeology Book of the Year 2016 award.
Winner of the Tratman 2015 Award.
Dr. Marion Dowd is a Lecturer in Prehistoric Archaeology at the Institute of Technology Sligo, Ireland. For two decades her research has focussed on the human use of caves in Ireland, and specifically the role of caves in prehistoric ritual and religion. She has directed numerous archaeological excavations in Irish caves, and has lectured and published widely on the subject. Her first book, 'The Archaeology of Caves in Ireland' (Oxbow Books, 2015), won the Tratman Award 2015 and the Current Archaeology Book of the Year 2016.
List of figures List of tables List of abbreviations Preface Chapter 1: People in caves, caves in people Theatres of intent In the deep dark silence Feeling through the dark Sensuous spaces The otherworld, restricted access and liminality Ancient symbols in a modern world Metaphors in the past Diverse biographies Named places Cave activities in the 21st century The archaeology of caves in Ireland in context Book structure and general notes Chapter 2: Excursions into places of fearful darkness- 300 years investigating caves Subterranean ventures The great age of travel writing Early antiquarian investigations The search for bone caves Digging in the back garden Forced underground The quest for a Palaeolithic Speleology: the science of caves Fortuitous discoveries: the contribution of the caving community The legacy of 300 years of explorations Chapter 3: Caves and cave archaeology in Ireland Cave formation Anatomy of a cave Counting caves When is a cave not a cave? When is a cave an archaeological site? Problems with the record Forgotten places: caves through the archaeologist's lens Scratching the surface: recent developments Why do archaeologists not do caves? Cave archaeology: Ireland in context Chapter 4: Gathering the dead - the Mesolithic (8000-3800 BC) Journeying with the dead Elevating the ancestors Lithics from caves Connecting with farmers Moving on Chapter 5: Thresholds to transformation - the Neolithic (3800-2400 BC) Neolithic human remains Burials in caves Links with the Linkardstown tradition The face of violence Possible cave burials Transformation underground: excarnation Powerful encounters with the dead Artificial caves and natural tombs Thresholds Offerings underground The relationship between caves and Neolithic settlements: two case studies Places of wilderness Neither domesticated nor domestic spaces Regional patterns in Neolithic cave use Long held traditions Chapter 6: Journeying deeper into darkness - the Bronze Age (2400-600 BC) Continuing ritual usage of Neolithic sites Persistent places: case study of Kilgreany Cave Deposition of pottery sherds No ordinary burial place Surrounded by the ancestors Travelling deeper into darkness Disappearing underground Altering the subterranean realm Intimate familiarity and ritual retreat Swallowing up the dead: the evidence from swallowholes Living in caves: evidence from the coast The end of a golden age Chapter 7: Eyes full of darkness - the Iron Age (600 BC-AD 400) No one home A skull and a tooth: human remains of Iron Age date Special animal deposits in caves Horse bits and bones Resonances of red deer The Cave of Cruachain: the focus of an Iron Age ritual landscape? Departing prehistory Chapter 8: Out of the darkness, into the light - the Early Medieval period (AD 400-1169) The light of Christ illuminating the darkness of humankind Home is where the hearth is Duration of occupation Glencurran Cave: case study of an Early Medieval habitation site Lighting the dark Who lived in caves? Bandit's lairs Caves, souterrains and storage solutions Human bones of Early Medieval date Caves: places of Viking burial? The end of an era Chapter 9: Silence spaces or speaking volumes? - the Medieval period (1169 - 1550 AD) From cave to castle Human bones of Medieval date How many pots make a home? Retreats of holy men The Medieval rumour that haunted Europe Caves in Medieval mythology Out of the cave... her fit abode A cave fit for a king Lovers in caves Red birds, druidic cats and werewolves Finding a home for Medieval mythology in archaeological discourse A return to the religious Chapter 10: Diverse biographies - post-Medieval period to 21st century (1550-present) Fleeing to woods and caves Caves in Penal times Despite the best exertions of a watchful band Convenient cavities Cave folklore Naming the underground Realm of the supernatural A woman's place The case of the disappearing piper Popular religious practices Celebrating the harvest festival Caves and Catholicism in the 21st century: Lough Derg and Lourdes Enduring places End note: The future of Irish cave archaeology Bibliography Appendix: Caves of archaeological significance in Ireland