Archaeological Watermarks: Settlement and Seasonal Flooding in Historical Ireland

 Enda O'Flaherty, PhD candidate, on archaeological fieldwork

This research concerns human interaction with the dynamic nature of seasonal lakes (turloughs) from the early medieval into the early modern period. Turloughs, of which there are 304 in Ireland, are glacio-karstic phenomena typically associated with the landscape of the western and central lowlands. Key characteristics include a dynamic flooding regime, lack of surface outflow, and ecological communities characteristic of wetlands. The nature of this flooding and the archaeological, historical, toponymic and folklore evidence for its management and manipulation are central to this research project.

The socio-economic dimensions of turlough landscapes have been generally overlooked in Irish settlement studies. In order to address that gap, the phenomenological significance of turloughs is investigated in order to contextualise them as integrated elements of the social infrastructure of past populations. The knowledge that population groups acquired about seasonal flooding and how that knowledge was used to manage and exploit seasonal lakes, to their own benefit, is attested through case studies of turlough landscapes.

Enda O'Flaherty is a GDS scholar. His research is supervised by Professor Liz FitzPatrick.