Enniscrone Archaeology


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Souterrains

Souterrains

Souterrains

There is an excellent example of a souterrain located within a ringfort, located near to Enniscrone.

A souterrain is a series of underground chambers and passageways, probably used as places of refuge in case of attack. It is thought that most large ringforts constructed in the second half of the first millennium may well contain souterrains, but because they are hidden underground, few are known about and even fewer are accessible. Souterrains were built by excavating large trenches, building the often complex passageways and chambers as corbelled dry stone walls and then covering them over with soil, ensuring that entrances and exits could easily be hidden.

As well as places of safety for women and children if the fort was under attack, it is thought they might also have been built for storing foodstuffs, as temperatures are constantly cool within and there is an absence of flies. They could also have been used for hiding items of value, sometimes in secret alcoves, as access into and egress from most souterrains is very difficult because of small entrances, narrow passageways and defensive features.

This entrance to this souterrain, near Enniscrone, has two passageways off it - onehas caved in; so no one knows where it leads, what it contains or where it exits. As you can see from the milk carton, the entrance to the second passageway is small and one has to crawl in. Inside it is pitch black. After a tight crawl of a few feet there is a 'Stile' to clamber over. This was probable a defensive feature - any attacker would easily be killed while crawling in. Once over the 'stile' there is a 'creep tunnel'. It slopes downwards about 10 metres and is only about a metre high, leading to another small portal to squeeze through to get into the Inner Chamber. The Inner Chamber is quite large, about 10 metres long, 3 metres wide and 2 metres high. Considering it is a man-made structure at least 1000 years old it has lasted well.

Then there is a much smaller Middle Chamber and from it there is another narrow passageway to crawl through to the Outer Chamber which is about 9 meters long. The exit hole of this particular souterrain is very small and comes out on the embankment of the ringfort.

Getting into and moving within a souterrain is not easy and - any raider wishing to steal women and children, food or valuables would have found it quite difficult, although prolonged or successful attacks would also present dangers of suffocation or entombment, etc., to those seeking refuge within.


DO NOT ENTER SOUTERRAINS
Most ringforts and souterrains are on private land - Do Not Trespass
Souterrains are underground, and may be liable to cave-ins -
Do Not Enter unless you are properly equipped and have all necessary safety precautions in place - and permission to do so.

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