If it weren’t for those pesky kids: the spatial segregation of children in an early medieval cemetery enclosure.

Brendon Wilkins, Site Director

How does our current thinking about boundaries prejudice our understanding of how physical and conceptual boundaries worked in the past? How were the boundaries of human bodies and personal identities policed, or deliberately broken down in the past, and what were the consequences of this?

Carrowkeel, Co Galway

Carrowkeel, Co Galway

Carrowkeel, Co Galway

Phase I Phase II Phase III Phase IV

AD 650-850 AD 850-1050 AD 1050-1250 AD 1250-1450

132 individuals 40 radiocarbon dates

Phase I 650 – 850 AD

SK 72: crouched Inhumation in ditch terminus. (UB-7423) cal AD 682-872.

37 Individuals • 14% • 8% • 16% • 16% • 5% foetus perinate infant younger child adolescent

Phase II 850 -1050AD

SK 33 Older Child (UB-7482) cal AD 857-991

75 Individuals • 27% • 7% • 4% • 27% foetus perinate neonate infant

Phase III & IV 1050 - 1450AD

SK 54 Foetus (UB-7419) cal AD 1340-1396

20 individuals • 78% non adults • 44% below one year • No perinates/neonates • Or adolescents

Cíllíní and their Context
• Unique to Ireland • Most common in western counties • Generally Post-Medieval • • • • • • Unbaptised children Pregnant women Suicides Non-Catholics Sailors Murderers & their victims

Cíllíní and boundaries
• in the haggard • in ringforts • boundary fences • at cross-roads • the shelter of a bush • cliff ledges • outside graveyards • the edge of a tide • on a river or sea cliff • near a well • field corners • townland boundaries • beside marshy or wooded ground
Dennehy, E. 2003. The History of Ceallunaigh in Co. Kerry. Kerry Archaeological and Historical Society Journal. Series 2 (2) 5-21.

“In an unkempt space of dark, clinging grass, with stones scattered over it here and there. There he said, the islanders had been accustomed to bury suicides and un-baptised children; a sad association, I thought, of those who had known nothing and those who had known too much of life.”

Flower, R. 1985 (1944). The Western Island or the Great Blasket. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Age Distribution
Phase I II III IV Period (AD) 650 – 850 850 – 1050 1050 – 1250 1250 – 1450 Total Foetus 8 24 3 2 37 29% Infant 6 23 5 34 27% Juvenile 12 25 5 42 33% Adult Male 3 2 2 7 5% Adult Female 7 1 8 6% Total 36 74 16 2 132 100%

Ecclesiastical Enclosures
• • • • • • • • • • • Evidence of enclosure; A burial area, normally in the southeast corner; A place-name with an ecclesiastical element; Structural remains; A holy well within close proximity; A Bullaun stone; carved or decorated stone cross or slab; A townland boundary forming part of the enclosure; Evidence for a souterrain; A pillar stone; A founders tomb; And an associated traditional ritual or folk custom. 

Swan, L. 1983. Enclosed ecclesiastical sites and their relevance to settlement patterns of the first millennium A.D.In Reeves-Smyth, T. and Hamond, F. (eds.) Landscape Archaeology in Ireland. BAR British Series 116

Early medieval settlement and society

Wood 1821: 269.

Ringforts and Ecclesiastical Enclosures
Landscape divisions
Distribution of Early Christian sites in the barony of Garrycastle, Co. Offaly, highlighting the relationship between lay and ecclesiaitical elements of society.

Stout, M. 1997. The Irish Ringfort. Dublin: Four Courts Press

Early Christian tuath based on law tracts
Model of the inter-relationships of ringfort dwelling freemen and the mutually advantageous links between ecclesiastical and secular settlement.

Stout 1997: 124 Myteum 1992: 12

Collectico Canonum Hibernensis
• Compilation of Canons written c. AD 650. • The reluctance of Christians to abandon their ancestral or familial cemeteries. • Jacob and Joseph carried from Egypt to be burried with their ancestors

O’Brien, E. 1999. Post-Roman Britain to Anglo-Saxon England: Burial Practices Reviewed. Oxford: BAR British Series 289.

Settlement Cemeteries?
“…in the absence of substantial supporting evidence, it is not  permissible to claim that the hundreds of enclosed burial grounds are the sites of early monasteries… This leads to an alternative  proposition, namely that these sites were secular settlements of  small communities of the early medieval period, having their  origins in a non­Christian or pre­Christian society.” 

Swan, L. 1983. Enclosed ecclesiastical sites and their relevance to settlement patterns of the first millennium A.D.In Reeves-Smyth, T. and Hamond, F. (eds.) Landscape Archaeology in Ireland. BAR British Series 116

Segregation of Children
• Raunds Furnells, England
9th – 11th century

• Whithorn St Ninian, Scotland
8th – 9th century

• Rock of Cashel, Co Tipperary
12th century

• Raystown, Co Meath
7th -10th century

Carrowkeel, Co Galway

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