BOG FINDS IN COUNTY KILDARE

by niamh mccabe on August 9, 2006

The bog-finds of County Kildare
 
        In light of the recent discoveries and the renewed interest in Bog-Finds of an archaeological nature, particularly those of an Iron Age date, which have done much to add to our understanding of the Iron Age period it is worth re-considering our own Bog-Finds, from the County of Kildare.
Containing, as it does large tracts of bog, most notably the famous Bog of Allen, it is not surprising that over the years a great variety of bog-finds have materialised, in various states of preservation.
 
A simple examination of the records in the National Museum of Ireland reveal the extent of the Archaeological Heritage which the bogs have preserved for us.
 
The earliest bog-find on record dates to 1929, with the discovery of Bog Butter in the townland of Killinagh, in the Barony of Carbury. Bog butter is, of course among the most common type of artefact found in Bogs and without further analysis it is impossible to place within any particular context as it is possibly of iron age in date, but it is also just as possible that it belongs to a Medieval or post-medieval context. Finds of Bog butter were also recorded at Clogorrow, Barony of Narragh and West Rheban in 1947 and at the Blackwater, near Rathangan in1953.
 
The discovery of bog-butter has continued right up to recent times with the discovery of bog butter and a wickerwork container in a bog at Newtownbert, Barony of Narragh and West Rheban in 1967 and a wooden vessel and bog butter at Rosberry, Barony of Connell in 1970. In 1986 Bog butter was found at Scarletstown in the Barony of Connell and in the 90’s two finds are also recorded, another at Rosberry in 1993 and one in the Knockcor area in the barony of Carbury.
 
 
According to Eamonn P. Kelly, Keeper of Irish Antiquities, NMI (1) in the current edition of Archaeology Ireland,bog burials involving human sacrifice in the early IronAge can now be seen to be part of a wider practice ofritual deposition in which offerings of bog butter, quernstones, etc. also play a part.
Dr. Kelly suggests that (2006:28)"These are reminders that a central function of themarriage of the king and the earth goddess was to ensurethe fertility of the land and the wellbeing of the peoplewho were dependent for survival on reliable yields of corn,milk and milk products.” His study, which also suggests the importance of peripheral or boundary locations found that nine samples of Irish Iron Age bog butter were all found onor in close proximity to boundaries, five near baronyboundaries and three near parish boundaries. 
One very interesting example, which would seem to support his theory is that of Clongownagh Bog, in the townland of Baronstown West, Barony of Connell wherein 1954 “one of the samples of bog butter wasfound in the same bog as an Irish Iron Age bog body”.

 
As far back as the 40’s those working in the bogs of county Kildare frequently reported their finds to the National Museum. In 1947, several other finds were also reported. At Clonkeeran, in the Barony of Carbury a section of a bog road was uncovered, while at Mucklon, also in the Barony of Carbury a leather shoe and wooden vessel were found, and at Derries bog wooden discs and bones were uncovered.
 
Bog roads, or trackways, such as that at Clonkeeran are also a common discovery in Kildare, and indeed all over the midlands and other areas which contain large areas of peatland. According to the Irish Peatland Conservation Council (2) over 200 track ways have been found in Irish bogs and are common in Counties Kildare, Leitrim, Galway, Longford, Meath, Offaly, Tipperary and Westmeath. Those in Kildare include one atClonegath in the Townland of Oghil, which also included the discovery of quernstones, and others at Cloncarlin(Td. Oghil), Timahoe, and Lullymore all in the sixties. Another, in this case a stone-paved road was uncovered at Rathbride in 1974 and one at Drehid in 1985.
 
 
In some cases the records are particularly poor, such as that of a Wooden object at Timahoe in 1950 and similarly at Tankardstown in 1953. Whether the nature of these objects was apparent or not is unclear, however the records seems to suggest they were un-identifiable.
 
There are also the existence of several finds which suggest activity in earlier periods than that usually associated with the bog-lands. Finds such as a stone axe-head from Cloncarlin Bog, another from Dawson’s bog, Oldtowndonore, a flint arrowhead from Timahoe West are all perhaps indicators of Neolithic activity in the bogs.
 
Leather objects are also occasionally found preserved in bogs, due to the nature of the soil, such as a leather shoe found in a sack of turf, believed to have originated at Timahoe, in the Barony of Clane, another at Ticknevin, in the Barony of Carbury, three found at Ballindoolin, also in the Barony of Carbury and another more recently, in 2001 the discovery of a leather belt in a bog in the County.
 
Several Bronze objects have also turned up over the years, including a bronze dirk found in a bog at Rosberry in 1981, a drinking vessel, found in Derrylea Bog, Quinsborough and a Bronze sword blade found at Lullymore Bog in 1999.
 
Other various discoveries include a possible Togher at Lattensbog, Human/Human Bones from Timahoe bog, a wooden object from Mulgeeth, wooden spade from Timarve, Bones at Donaghdea, worked timbers from a bog at Killenagh, and various other finds from Lullymore.
 
 

Admittedly many of the older finds were not susceptible to the levels of examination possible now, and one is forced to consider what information has been lost from these finds forever. However, it is also clear that much is still to be learned from an analysis of these objects. While this article simply outlines the wealth of the bog-finds originating in this county, it also opens our eyes to the possibilities of further research. Perhaps a study of the find-spots of these artefacts would prove useful in supporting or questioning the recent theory regarding the boundary locations of ritual deposits suggested by Ned Kelly. It is also possible that careful re-examination of these finds would add to our understanding of areas of inhabitation, important territorial boundaries and the artefacts associated with ritual deposition in particular areas.

(1) Kelly, E. P. (Summer 2006)Archaeology Ireland Dublin : Irish Academic Publications

(2) www.ipcc.ie

An outline of finds from the bogs of County Kildare as detailed in the National Museum of Ireland records.

 

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