Huge New Bronze Age Fortress Discovered In Ireland’s Nature Reserve!

While carrying out routine fieldwork in the Burren Lowlands of County Galway in Ireland, field archaeologist Michael Gibbons discovered a Bronze Age fortress that may be nearly 3,200 years old . The vast ancient rock fortress is about 1,300 feet (400 meters) long on its north and south sides and about 328 feet (100 meters) along its east and west walls. Ireland’s last Bronze Age fortress is bounded on all sides by turloughs, a type of seasonal lake found only in Ireland west of the River Shannon. The bogs were completely dry some of the time and filled with water other times. When filled with water, they could form a virtually impenetrable barrier.

It is clear that the location of the Irish Bronze Age fortress was carefully chosen by its architects, who wanted to make the structure as difficult as possible for enemies to reach.

When he made this fascinating discovery, Gibbons was working on an assignment for Project Muintearas. This is an educational initiative dedicated to protecting and preserving the traditional language, society and culture of the Irish-speaking areas of Ireland.

The remains of the nearly forested Bronze Age Irish fortress recently discovered by field archaeologist Michael Gibbons in County Galway, Ireland. ( TEN News )

Hidden in an ordinary site: a gigantic Bronze Age fortress!

The gigantic structure that Michael Gibbons analyzed and eventually identified had in fact been known for some time. The fortress sits within the boundaries of Coole Park, a 1,000-acre (four square kilometre) nature reserve located a short distance from the town of Gort in County Galway.

Ireland’s last Bronze Age fortress was easy to identify as a structure of some type, but its antiquity was unknown and so it had not aroused as much interest among archaeologists and historians.

But Gibbons was intrigued enough to take a closer look at the stone structure, and the results of his investigation suggested it was built between 1200 and 800 BC.

Gibbons told RTE News that the large rock enclosure was comparable in size to the famous fortress of Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mhór in the Aran Islands, which mark the entrance to Galway Bay in the North Atlantic. He said the fortress would have been large enough to house and protect up to 200 people.

There’s a “magical otherworldly quality to the whole landscape,” Gibbons said.

Much of the land surrounding the newly identified Bronze Age fortress is covered in dense forest, and the forest has grown quite high within the walls of the structure. However, Gibbons and his colleagues plan to continue to explore the interior spaces of the fortress intensively over the next few months, looking in particular for the crumbling ruins of the Bronze Age rotundas.

To complement their on-the-ground analysis, the researchers have so far conducted several aerial surveys of the structure and surrounding area with LiDAR technology. This innovative exploration tool uses reflected laser light to construct three-dimensional recreations of sections of the earth photographed from above.

“We know there were many roundhouses inside, that they work metal and make high-level artifacts,” Gibbons told online publication ARTnews. The archaeologist is currently waiting for the accumulated LiDAR data to be fully analyzed, and he and his fellow researchers hope this will provide evidence that several roundhouses were built inside the fortress ramparts.

Round houses were the preferred form of dwelling for most people who lived in the lands of the United Kingdom during the Bronze Age (2500-500 BC) and for some time beyond. These strong, low structures included walls made of wooden or stone posts installed in pre-dug post holes. Bronze Age builders filled the spaces between the inner and outer sections of the walls with a mixture of earth, clay and twigs, to insulate the living space against cold and damp. The round houses were covered with thatched roofs which allowed smoke from cooking or heating fires to escape easily.

Round houses were not always built within fortress walls. It seems that the people who lived in the Bronze Age fortress built at Coole Park were afraid of outside invaders and probably felt they had no choice but to lock themselves behind the rocky walls of a large defensive wall.

The stone outline of the huge Irish Bronze Age fortress built in Coole Park is clearly visible between the turlough lakes.  (RTE News)

The stone outline of the huge Irish Bronze Age fortress built in Coole Park is clearly visible between the turlough lakes. ( TEN News )

A magical landscape to discover

Muintearas CEO Seán Ó Coistealbha expressed his delight at Gibbons’ unique discovery.

“The amount of work that was put into this incredible fortress by men and women in ancient times is incredible,” Ó Coistealbha told RTE. “There is a wealth yet to be discovered. We are only skirting the stone borders of a hidden civilisation, or a hidden population, or a hidden time in Ireland’s past.”

Explorations in the area around the fortress are likely to resume as archaeologists now know that a Bronze Age fortress and settlement existed at the site between 2,800 and 3,200 years ago. For now, they can only guess how far the Bronze Age inhabitants ventured beyond the fortress walls, but it’s likely that many more ruins and artifacts will eventually be excavated or identified in this small part of County Galway’s magical landscape.

Top image: Field archaeologist Michael Gibbons, left, unearthed the outlines of this gigantic Bronze Age fortress, partially visible in the background of this image, which may be nearly 3,200 years old , during routine field work in a nature reserve in County Galway. , Ireland . Source: YouTube screenshot / TEN News

By Nathan Falde

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