School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP)
Queen’s University Belfast
Belfast, BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland, UK
+44 (0)28 9097 5287
Settlement Structure in the Middle–Late Bronze Age in Ireland
This research examined Middle–Late Bronze Age (c. 1750–600 BC) domestic settlement patterns in Ireland. Ireland’s status and role in the later European Bronze Age is demonstrated by its corpus of fine metalwork which was occasionally exported throughout much of Britain and western Europe, but the social, economic and political context of this metalwork is poorly developed. Recent archaeological investigations have extended the number of habitation sites greatly, but no detailed, systematic attempts have been made to understand the domestic evidence, or to substantially revise the existing, including some long-held, models for the development of complex Bronze Age societies. People use houses as they do other artefacts, and the concept of identity is central to the creation of socio-spatial structures, which allowed this research to explore society.
All available data relating to settlements dating to Middle–Late Bronze Age have been collated. The principal database consists of over 300 settlements, the majority of which have been excavated since 2000 as a result of development-led projects. An evidence-based chronology for settlement is established for the first time. The data were then examined at multiple scales to investigate any spatial or chronological trends in settlement character or distribution. The relationships between settlements and the surrounding environmental and social landscapes were analysed through a GIS. The new data were investigated to see how domestic settlements operated, and if traditional concepts regarding the structure of Bronze Age society could still be upheld. Agent-based modelling and social network analysis provided another dimension to the discussion regarding power, regionalism and hierarchy within the settlement network.
The investigations of the new settlement sites have dramatically changed our understanding of the social and cultural landscape of the Bronze Age. The results revealed a distinct rise in the visibility, and a rapid adaption, of domestic architecture, which seems to have occurred earlier in Ireland than elsewhere in western and northern Europe. The environment plays a fundamental role in the location of these settlements, and the social landscape dictates how they are structured. The majority of the settlements are relatively independent and economically self-contained, growing their own food and only producing the tools they required. For the majority of settlements, the agricultural base is generally unexceptional. Some settlements exhibit signs of a conscious desire to express a distinct identity. The ways in which Bronze Age communities socialised their landscapes were similar throughout Ireland, highlighting a high degree of communication and shared preference for location, but by the Late Bronze Age differences become more obvious, reflecting an increased regionalism. Activity increases in some regions during the Late Bronze Age, and focuses on key areas, creating the potential for the existence of socio-political congeries. A distinct class of independent farmers existed, but on the whole there is little wealth and power overtly present in the extant settlement record and a strong, socio-economic hierarchy is not evident.
This research provides a major contribution to the continued appreciation of the Middle Bronze Age as a distinctive period. It also presents a well-ordered, integrated, alternative interpretation to the traditional perception of stratification in the Bronze Age.
Ginn, V. forthcoming ‘As Time Goes By’: a re-appraisal of a Bronze Age site’, Archaeology Ireland.
Ginn, V. forthcoming ‘Who lives in a roundhouse like this? Going through the keyhole on Bronze Age domestic identity’ in V. Ginn, R. Enlander, and R. Crozier (eds), Exploring prehistoric identity in Europe: our construct or theirs? Oxford, Oxbow.
Ginn, V., Phelan, S., and Walsh, F. forthcoming The Bronze Age Part 1: Bronze Age domestic activity. In E. Devine, V. Ginn, M. Brick, N. Carlin, M. Delaney, R. Jennings, S. Phelan, and F. Walsh The archaeology of the Barrow and Nore valleys in north Kilkenny. Archaeology and the National Roads Authority Monograph.
Murphy, D. and Ginn, V. in press ‘The M3 excavations and Tara’, in M. O’Sullivan, G. Cooney and C. Scarre (eds), Tara: from the past to the future.
Ginn, V. in press ‘The deposition of human remains derived from domestic contexts in Iron Age Atlantic Scotland’, Discovery and Excavation in Scotland 2012.
Murphy, D. and Ginn, V. 2012 ‘Portumna Castle: the excavations’, in J. Fenlon (ed.), Clanricard’s Castle. Portumna House, Co. Galway, 83–100. Dublin, Four Court’s Press.
Ginn, V., Enlander, R., and Crozier, R. 2012 ‘Interpreting identity: our construct or theirs?’, Past 70, 10–11.
Ginn, V. and Rathbone, S. 2012 Corrstown: a coastal community. Excavations of a Bronze Age village in Northern Ireland. Oxford, Oxbow.
Ginn, V. 2011 ‘The fusion of settlement and identity in dispersed and nucleated settlements in Bronze Age Ireland’, Journal of Irish Archaeology XX, 27–44.
Russell, I. and Ginn, V. 2011 ‘Adamstown 1, Co. Waterford’, in J. Eogan and E. Shee Twohig (eds), Cois tSiúire nine thousand years of human activity in the lower Suir valley. Archaeological excavations on the route of the N25 Waterford Bypass, 25–30. The National Roads Authority Scheme Monographs 8. Dublin, The National Roads Authority.
Russell, I. and Ginn, V. 2011 ‘Adamstown 3, Co. Waterford’, in J. Eogan and E. Shee Twohig (eds), Cois tSiúire nine thousand years of human activity in the lower Suir valley. Archaeological excavations on the route of the N25 Waterford Bypass, 30–7. The National Roads Authority Scheme Monographs 8. Dublin, The National Roads Authority.
Archaeological Consultancy Services Ltd. 2009 Conor’s Corrstown. Education pack.
Armit, I. and Ginn, V. 2007 ‘Beyond the grave: human remains from domestic contexts in Atlantic Scotland’, Proceedings of the Prehistoric Society 73, 115–36.
Queen’s University Belfast (09/2004–10/2005)
MA Archaeology: passed with distinction.
Oxford University, Keble College (10/2000–06/2004)
BA (Hons) Modern History and English Literature: 2.1.
Freelance archaeological editor and writer of excavation reports and publications since 2005. Worked predominantly with Archaeological Consultancy Services (Ltd) editing, co-writing, copy-editing, proofreading reports on the M3 and N3, as well as contributing to and editing the Corrstown final excavation report. In-house editing of Places Along the Way: first findings on the M3 (2009: NRA Monography, Dublin: Wordwell) as well as Life and Death in the Boyne Floodplain: Findings from the Archaeological Excavations along the route of the M4 Motorway (2008: NRA Monograph, Dublin: Wordwell). Also worked with Irish Archaeological Consultancy Ltd editing, copy-editing and proofreading reports on the N18, M3, and N9N10 as well as acting as text co-ordinator and contributor to the N9M10 monograph (in prep). Also worked for Archaeological Development Services and Archer Heritage.