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Reflections on the Making of a 'Royal Site' in Early Ireland

Conor Newman
World Archaeology
Vol. 30, No. 1, The Past in the Past: The Reuse of Ancient Monuments (Jun., 1998), pp. 127-141
Published by: Taylor & Francis, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/125013
Page Count: 15
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Reflections on the Making of a 'Royal Site' in Early Ireland
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Abstract

This paper explores aspects of the tension at play between archaeology and history in the analysis of the famous 'royal' sites of Late Prehistoric Ireland paying particular attention to factors that may have led to the aggrandisement of these essentially prehistoric complexes during the medieval period, centuries after they had, to all intents and purposes, fallen into disuse. Attention is also focused on the connection between these sites and the institution of medieval kingship, exploring what contribution, if any, prehistoric sacral institutions may have made to the medieval concept of kingship. It is postulated that Imperial Roman Britain provided the major catalyst in the development of the warrior king and in the apparent fragmentation of Late Iron Age Irish society into 150 or so tuatha (petty kingdoms) during the Early Historic Period and that the 'royal' sites were exploited during this period of upheaval as symbols of legitimate pedigree, symbols of ancestral claims on the land. Attention is also focused on diachronic analysis of the 'royal' sites as prehistoric ritual complexes, many of which have evidence of activity stretching from the Neolithic to the Late Iron Age and into the first few centuries of the Christian Period.

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