County Louth - The Monuments

Because of its climate, coastal situation and the good quality of its soils, Louth is a long settled place. Evidence of human settlement extends back to at least 6000BC when Mesolithic hunter-gatherers first settled along the river valleys of south Louth. Though they have not left us any monumental remains, their Neolithic descendants most certainly did. Louth possesses 21 megalithic tombs in two concentrations: one in the Cooley peninsula the other in south Louth which is part of the great cemetery of tombs in the Boyne Valley, in County Meath [See Proleek Dolmen]

The county was also densely settled during the long line of centuries that make up the so-called Bronze Age (c.2,500 - c.600BC) and Early Iron Age (c.600BC - AD400). While surface remains from these periods do survive - standing stones, barrows, fulachtaí fia, rock-art, cist and pit-graves - only the standing stones, such as 'Clochafarmore' near Knockbridge, are monumental in character. Thus, the well-preserved barrow at Commons near Lurgangreen, included here [see Dundugan - Bell Barrow], is a rare survival of a once common burial monument from these times. Also of importance, are the Rock Art sites of north-west Louth, which form a particularly significant cluster of these relatively rare and enigmatic monuments (see Bibliography under Buckley and Sweetman 1991, 82-87).

The great floruit in terms of monumental archaeology in Louth as elsewhere in Ireland, occurs in medieval times (AD 400 - 1500). Thus the county abounds in ringforts, souterrains, and early church sites of the Early Christian Period (AD 400-800). One of the many importance aspects of Thomas Wright's Louthiana of 1748 is that he makes the first detailed records of these types of monuments [See Souterrain at Ballrichan and Ringfort at Rathdrummin].

The arrival of the Anglo-Normans in the late 1180s heralded a huge period of social change as is evidenced by the many earthen motte-castles [See mottes at Louth Village, Knockbridge, and Castletown] and a small number of strategically situated stone castles of the late 12th and 13th centuries [See Carlingford and Castleroche]. Some of these spawned urban settlements, among which Ardee, Carlingford and Drogheda, are notable for their well preserved urban remains [See St Lawrence's Gate in Drogheda]. These are matched in rural Louth by the many examples of fortified Late Medieval castles or tower houses. Here again Wright's drawings of these towers is invariably the earliest detailed record of these monuments [see Roodstown and Termonfeckin].

Thus, it is in the range rather than the uniqueness of its ancient monuments, that Louth is important. While displaying many distinctive regional features, its monuments are also very representative of the built heritage of Ireland as a whole.

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