17/04/2013: Minister Deenihan Launches Discovery Programme Publication (2 vols), The Western Stone Forts Project: excavations at Dún Aonghasa and Dún Eoghanachta by Claire Cotter.

Jimmy Deenihan, TD, Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, today (Wednesday 17th April 2013), launched the first two volumes of a major new research project on stone forts in the west of Ireland – The Western Stone Forts Project: excavations at Dún Aonghasa and Dún Eoghanachta.

As part of the first suite of extensive Discovery Programme projects, funded by the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht through the Heritage Council, it was decided to study the stone fort monuments dotted along the seaboard of counties Kerry, Clare, Galway, Mayo and Donegal. These ‘Western Stone Forts’ are an impressive example of prehistoric and medieval vernacular architecture and represent a creative human response to the stony environment of western Ireland. Five volumes relating to different aspects of the project are to be published. Two volumes on the large-scale excavations of Dún Aonghasa and Dún Eoghanachta will be launched this evening.

Minister Deenihan said “These forts provide an exceptional opportunity for multi-disciplinary research, in particular, in the fields of archaeology, early Irish history and historical geography. Over 30 specialists contributed to the post-excavation reports for the works at Dún Aonghasa and Dún Eoghanachta.

“Dún Aonghasa on Inis Mór (Árainn), the largest of the Aran Islands, is one of the great national icons of the Irish landscape. It has attracted attention from historians as far back as the eleventh century and from the great nineteenth century antiquarians John O’Donovan and George Petrie. Dún Eoghanachta is also hugely significant as it represents the ultimate development of the monument type known as a cashel – in essence a stone ringfort”.

Minister Deenihan continued “My Department recognises that the Western Stone Forts are of outstanding universal value and have included them on Irelands’ ‘Tentative List’ for inclusion on UNESCO’s World Heritage List. What gives them their outstanding universal value is the combination of well-preserved physical remains, considerable archaeological evidence and a distinct landscape, along with the richness of surviving, relevant contemporary historical texts. The scale and duration of the project has brought to light many of the complexities of both sites. The published volumes are quite simply an invaluable data set and resource for the study of the late prehistoric and early medieval period in Irish archaeology and history.”

The Minister congratulated the Discovery Programme and Claire Cotter and her team, for their hard work and commitment in researching and producing these meticulously researched yet engaging and readable monographs. These volumes, and forthcoming volumes, should become staple reference materials for all interested in Irish stone forts for many years to come.


Department of Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, 23 Kildare Street, Dublin , D02 TD30. Tel: 01 631 3800 / LoCall: 1890 383 000

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