Cahers or Cashels

CAHER OR CASHEL.—These forts are chiefly confined to Kerry, Clare, Arran Islands, Mayo, Sligo. The defences consisted of walls of dry masonry from sixteen to eighteen feet in thickness. They were constructed in this way: Two walls were built apart and the intervening space filled in with rubble, or two or more walls were joined together. The inner wall was formed into flights of steps leading to a platform lower than the outside wall, on which a stand could be taken for defence. Some of these enclosed an area of eighty yards in diameter. The following are the most remarkable:—Staigue, Caherconru, and Dingle forts in Kerry have no equal in British Isles; Clare also possesses fine specimens, Moghan being a remarkable one. It consists of three stone ramparts. The united length of the walls is 7,850 feet, enclosing an area of 27 acres. The Greanan of Aileach, the ancient seat of the O’Neills, Kings of Ulster, is a fort on the summit of a hill 803 feet high, 5½ miles from Derry. It consists of three circular ramparts formed of earth mixed with stones, the outer enclosing an area of 5½ acres. Within the inner breastwork is a cashel, a circular wall about 17½ feet high, enclosing an area of 77 feet in diameter.

It is difficult to approximate the precise date when these structures were first introduced, as it is difficult, if not impossible, in many cases, to assign an exact date to any archaeological period in Ireland. Dr. Moyer was of opinion that the Dingle settlement dated from the Firbolg occupation. O’Curry combatted this view, supporting the theory that it was of primitive Christian origin and a monastic establishment. As several Clochauns existed within the forts, this may have given rise to O’Curry’s view, but the Clochauns were probably the work of a later date than the forts.

Most writers of the past have attributed the erection of the stone forts to the Firbolgs, but according to the new theory those works were too stupendous to be raised by a conquered people. For the same reason, it would be wrong to say they were built by sea-rovers. It would appear that they were raised as defences against raiding and sudden assaults, and not intended to stand a prolonged siege, as they were not provided with wells. The cashels, mounds, and forts have their counterparts in the middle latitudes of Europe, on the lands once dominated by the Celts, and which covers a period from the bronze age to the occupation by the Romans.

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