By Anthony O’Connor
COUNTY Galway, with its extensive coastline and numerous internal rivers and lakes, has seen the coming of many civilisations and invasions – Stone Age, Iron Age, Celtic, Christian, Viking, Norman, Anglo-Irish, Cromwellian and Penal times.
Each civilisation has left its own indelible mark on the rural landscape. Despite the passing of the ages, the monuments and historic stones remain across the countryside of County Galway, proof to the progress, development and faith of our forefathers.
Remains of Ancient Tombs, Standing Stones, Dolmens, Rock Engravings, Historic Field Systems, Ringforts, Souterrains, Promontory Forts, Ruins of early Christian settlements, Holy Wells, Round Towers, Ruins of Castles and Keeps, Medieval Settlements and Enclosures, Lisheens, Remains of Gaols and Military Barracks etc, all adorn the agrarian countryside, being most prominent in areas of high agricultural activity.
Don’t forget the more recent monuments such as Famine villages and ridges, Lime Kilns, Sheep Passes, Forges, Watermills and Mass Rocks.
The county is rich in its archaeological heritage. Every townland in the county has one or more monuments on it. These archaeological features often give rise to the townland or area name, i.e. Liskeavy (Ring or Earthen Fort), Cahervoneen (Stone Ring Fort), and Kilconly (Church/Graveyard).
Civil Engineering Projects: In recent years, civil engineering projects such as the construction of the M6 Motorway, Gort to Tuam new road etc have led to the removal of some monuments. This is unfortunate and regrettable – however this is the price of progress.
Archaeological features in the path of motorways or roadways are removed after an archaeological survey and excavation. Any artefacts found are put on public display at local public or County Council Buildings.
Farmers have always been regarded as guardians of the environment. This includes monuments and archaeological features within their environment and on their holdings.
In the last few decades, increased mechanisation and farm intensification has led to the removal or damage to some monuments but thankfully the majority of archaeological structures remain as they have been for centuries.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.