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OWU Connection Programs
Project Title: Fighting in the Irish Environment: The Landscape in Ancient Irish Military Matters
Mentor: Carol Neuman de Vegvar
This project seeks to explore the interactions between late iron age and early medieval Irish military concerns and the Irish landscape, both natural and manufactured. Early Irish kingdoms would use the natural choke points in the landscape to create well-watched entry ways, and undergo large-scale building projects to create such obstacles when none existed. While there has been many new archaeological excavations and finds exploring these elements of the landscape, most of these have not yet been brought into the larger historical context.
The first part of the project uses the early Irish sagas as a look into the standards of warfare and territory control. The focal point of the Ulster Cycle of early Irish literature is the Táin Bó Cúailnge, which spends most of its length focusing on the hero preventing an invading army from reaching the kingdom, using these paths to follow the army and fight off the larger numbers, and this focus on borders and control of such are in many other Ulster Cycle sagas. With the information provided from sagas as historical texts, the archaeological research into early Irish border fortifications are brought into a greater context and their greater function can be better understood. This project asserts that the primary function of these border defenses was not to be a military stronghold from which to fight battles, but rather a way to funnel people to specific entry ways where such conflict would be more likely to occur, and are symptomatic of the small scale of warfare in early Ireland.