Description

RATHNARIG INTRO

SMR No.: ME031-033005-

Monument Type: Hilltop enclosure

Ráith na Rí, the Fort of the Kings, seems to have been given this name in the medieval period because of the royal associations with the monuments enclosed by it. These include Teach Cormaic and the Forradh. The monument is a large ovoid enclosure. It is defined by an internal ditch and an external bank which is best preserved in the south-western and north-western quadrants. A section dug across the ramparts in 1955 revealed that the ditch, which was V-sectioned, was once an impressive 5.5m deep, most of which was cut into the shale bedrock. The stratigraphy recorded in the section is open to different interpretations, but it seems reasonably certain that a layer containing iron slag was sealed beneath the bank indicating that the ramparts were constructed during the Iron Age or later. The foundation trench for a wooden palisade was found running parallel to the ditch 2m inside it. This appears to have been a later addition and it had the effect of converting this ceremonial enclosure into a defensive one. Three entrances have been identified, in the south, east and northwest. It appears that the most important of these was the eastern one. None, however, is original and it seems that they are contemporary with the erection of the palisade. This may have signalled a dramatic departure in the function of the monument reflecting the demise of the old pagan order and the rise of the new Christian one, where political expediency outweighed pre-Christian sacral beliefs. Excavations undertaken by Helen Roche for the Discovery Programme in 1997 uncovered evidence for metal-working as well as the remains of a child and dog and horse bones, all probably associated in various ways with ritual activity around Ráith na Rí.

Ráith na Rí in medieval descriptions is said to have enclosed three wonders, the Forradh, Teach Cormaic and Múr Tea. The Irish word forradh is likely to mean ‘a mound or platform’. It is possible that the monument functioned as the location for inaugurations of kings of Tara.

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