Landscape and Social Organization

Chapter 2 of Archaeology in Early Medieval Ireland is about Ring-Forts.

Actually, that’s not quite true.  It works up to being about ring-forts.  First it lays out the social conditions and organization of early medieval Ireland, since describing people’s living conditions doesn’t make a ton of sense unless you know why and how they came to live that way.

Hence, in the first part of the chapter, you’ll find a discussion of landscape, with the explanation that geologic features provide building materials and thus influence the type of building that takes place in an area.  There’s also a brief discussion of how Irish society was organized at this time:  broken in small tribal units of land, each a tuath, occupied by relatives sharing a great-grandfather (the derbfine)  or later, smaller groups which share a common grandfather (the gelfine).  There’s also a hierarchy of kings–the king of the local tuath, a king to whom several of such kings owe allegiance, and the king above that.

We reflected this extended family and kingship structure in The Last Abbot of Linn Duachaill both by showing it indirectly–Evgren and her father are unusual to live alone, and do so because of the last raid, which destroyed the wider homestead in which they resided, which would have been relatives, other members of their tuath–and having the local king Fintan have an overlord to whom he answers and to whom the Abbot was sending the book Evgren worked on the illuminations of, aiming to ingratiate himself with that overlord and do something of an end-run around his brother.


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