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The Burren and the Aran Islands

New book on the archaeology of the Burren and the Aran Islands


by Dr. Carleton Jones

‘Jones is clearly a skilled hand at making the technicalities of archaeology interesting and informative to the layman.’ – Books Ireland


‘Jones’s biggest success is the sense of enthusiasm that he conveys . . .’ – The Irish Times

Exploring the Archaeology

Poulnabrone portal tomb.

The Burren is a unique limestone region on the west coast of Ireland. It's name derives from the Irish word bhoireann which means 'a stony place' and stone certainly dominates the Burren landscape but it is not barren stone. The Burren has been teeming with people ever since the first farmers started clearing its trees nearly six thousand years ago. Those first farmers and the countless generations who followed them have left a remarkable landscape where megalithic tombs, burial cairns, prehistoric farmsteads, early Christian hermitages, stone forts, Medieval churches, castles, and even 19th century military fortifications all stand side-by-side.

Dun Aonghasa stone fort.

Stretching out to sea away from the Burren, the Aran Islands – Inisheer, Inishmaan and Inishmore – form a line that divides the calm waters of Galway Bay from the rough Atlantic. Geologically, the Aran Islands are an extension of the Carboniferous limestone of the Burren but their archaeology tells a story different from that of the Burren. While the Burren teemed with people in prehistory, population levels on the Aran Islands don't seem to have reached significant levels until much later. So while the Burren has a wealth of megalithic tombs, the Aran Islands have only a few. Thousands of years later, however, traffic on the seas became more frequent and the large stone forts of the Aran Island chiefs of this time attest to the strategic position of the islands at the mouth of Galway Bay. The islands took on an important spiritual role at this time as well. Their remote location made them ideal locations for monks and pilgrims and their activities have left a rich legacy of churches, carved stone crosses and other early Christian remains.

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Burren Archaeology Research was established in 1998 to carry out an extensive survey and excavation programme focused on the prehistoric landscape of the Burren. Field work ran until 2001 and the project is now in the write-up stage. More recently, Dr. Jones has written a new book titled The Burren and the Aran Islands - Exploring the Archaeology which can be purchased from The Collins Press. This is an extensively illustrated book that charts the six thousand years of archaeology present in these two fascinating regions - from their earliest settlers up to the 19th century.

Burren Archaeology Research