The extent to which ringforts retain evidence for occupation in the later medieval period is a question that the Discovery Programme’s Medieval Rural Settlement Project has been pursuing actively since 2004 when excavation commenced on Tulsk Fort, a raised ringfort located at the centre of Tulsk village. The ringfort lies 60m east of a stone-filled earthen mound in Castleland townland that is considered to be the site of Tulsk Castle, and is c.100m north of a Dominican Priory founded in 1448. The ringfort retains a dominant position in the wider topography and suggests that this was a location of primary importance throughout the medieval period.
The excavations have now revealed a sequence of five main horizons of activity, two of which appear to be early medieval in date when the site served as a ringfort, and two of which are later medieval and early modern/Elizabethan in date, respectively. The fifth and lowest horizon predates the construction of the ringfort and belongs to the prehistoric period.
The excavations at Tulsk Fort add to our information on the issues surrounding the question of the continuity of ringforts beyond the first millennium. The complexity of the site calls into question the association of the historically-referenced Tulsk Castle with the mound in the adjacent Castleland townland. That site has yet to be investigated but it is relatively slight in comparison. It is worth suggesting that the ringfort site may also have served as the location of the castle. The foundation of a castle in Tulsk in 1406 must be associated in some way with the emergence of the O’Conor Roe as a separate and distinct line of the O’Conors, in 1385. Tulsk became a principal residence of the O’Conor Roe and, therefore, it is appropriate to examine the ringfort in this context. A final season of excavation to bottom-out the medieval horizons is planned for 2009.
- Prof. Terry Barry, Trinity College Dublin
- Dr. Johnny DeMeulemeester, University of Ghent & Ministere de la Regione Wallonne
- Drs Shereen Lerner & Barry Vaughan, Mesa Comm Coll
- Dr. Kieran O’Conor, NUI Galway
- Dr. Jimmy Schryver, U Minnesota Morris
- Dr. John Soderberg, U Minnesota Twin Cities