November 2012

Archaeological investigations at the ‘royal’ enclosure of Ráith Airthir, Teltown, Co. Meath

The location of the most famous Lughnasa assembly in early Ireland, Teltown (Tailtiu) is one of the most significant ceremonial landscapes in the Meath region. Alongside a wealth of early documentary references to Teltown, the special character of this landscape is highlighted by the presence of a small but diverse range of archaeological monuments of both prehistoric and early medieval date. Among these is the ‘royal’ site of Ráith Airthir, one of the largest and most spectacular enclosures of its type in Ireland.

In exploring the history of Ráith Airthir and its broader landscape, this talk considered how recent archaeological investigations involving geophysical survey and test excavation have transformed our understanding of the site. This work has revealed Ráith Airthir to be a complex, multi-period site, which retained a special status from prehistoric times right up to the medieval period and beyond.

Dr Gerard Dowling examined late prehistoric multi-ramparted enclosures and related monuments in the Meath and Down regions as part of his PhD thesis in NUI Galway, on which he has published several articles. He is currently Research Archaeologist on the Late Iron Age and ‘Roman’ Ireland Project in the Discovery Programme, Dublin.