Experimental Archaeology: To Batter or Burn
The tower house is one of the most common archaeological monuments in Ireland, and its apparent defensive function has seen it become a symbol of endemic warfare and violence in the Late Medieval period. Following movements within castle studies more generally, a project was initiated to assess the defensive role of the tower house and determine how important defensive considerations were in the minds of their builders. A castle is only as strong as its weakest point and for this reason research was focused on the tower doorway.
Although the door could be protected by a yett (a type of iron grill placed in front of the door) these were not adopted universally leaving a large number of structures apparently vulnerable to two types of attack; battering and burning. The fact that an efficient and cost effective counter to these attacks was in existence but not adopted leads us to question how important defence was to the tower house owner.
We wanted to see just how vulnerable a tower house doorway without a yett would be and the only way to do this was to build a reconstruction and test it.